TrackMania was one hell of a game when it came out on the PC. Instead of the standard racing style of trying to keep ahead of some AI opponents, hoping that they don't bump you into a wall and stop you cold, TrackMania goes a different route. One that spins you in circles, flips you through the air, and makes you wonder which way is up as you drive on the wall. Or the ceiling. You kind of get around the track.
If you haven't played the game, let me explain: it's a racing game where the only thing you're racing is the clock, and possibly yourself. The tracks are not what you'd call 'normal', either. Big gaps to leave over, corkscrews, loops, driving up walls and on ceilings…the track design is about as outlandish as you can get without flying spaceships or hovercrafts.
There are three modes of play to TrackMania DS: Race, Platform, and Puzzle. The first is, well, I think you can figure it out. But just in case: you race. The clock, mostly, but a lot of the time you'll be racing your own ghost, trying to shave seconds off of your time to get the coveted gold medal (or higher). Platform mode is a little more unique, in that you're not trying to make it to the end as fast as possible, you're just trying to make it there without having to respawn at a checkpoint. Given how imaginative the track design can get, this is easier said that done. The puzzle mode has you trying to construct a path from the beginning of the track to the end that'll get you there as fast as possible.
For the DS, there are only three styles of tracks to play on, and one car for each track type. As you collect medals, you'll earn money that allows you to purchase skins for your car, bonus tracks, and extra parts for track creation, which has returned in the DS version. It's a little less refined than the PC version, making it harder to see details and what level of depth you're on, but it's serviceable. The biggest problem is that you can only share your tracks through local wireless connections, and not online.
The transition to the DS has gone pretty well for TrackMania. The controls were never overly complex in the first place, so all you need to know is how to go forward, stop, turn, and respawn (which you'll use quite a bit). The loading times are slim to none, and of course respawning in the middle of a race takes no time at all, keeping the pace.
There are problems, however, specifically with the small screen of the DS and its lower resolution. For racing and puzzle, problems don't come up too often since tracks are generally laid out in a somewhat linear, sometimes logical, pattern. In platform mode, however, it becomes to difficult to sometimes find depth perception or where to go. It can be a problem.
It's kind of odd to see the PC game being ported to the DS. It's not really the first system that I'd think of when thinking of a platform for the title, but it works. If you've played the original TrackMania, there's not much here that you haven't seen, but the key is that it's all handheld. It's a great game to pick up, play a track or two on, and then put down again. It works well on its hardware, and that's important. While there are some problems with how the DS presents it graphically, TrackMania generally comes out ahead of the competition.