Developer: Firebrand Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
# of Players: 1 (2 – 4 Single Card/Wi-Fi)
Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
If you’re a fan of racing games on the DS, you can absolutely rely on Firebrand Games to cook up something really cool and incredibly fun to play that also allows you to tap into your creative side. Need For Speed NITRO is another superb racer from the team that nicely translates much of what made the Wii version so cool while adding a few DS-exclusive elements such as Single and Multi-card play for up to four players. While the game doesn’t have exactly the same deep paint scheme editor found in its console brother, there is a mostly great color and decal creator that will keep the arty gamer quite occupied as he or she blazes through the game’s wild courses.
Races and events take place in the same five locations as found on the Wii (Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, Singapore, Madrid and Dubai), but a few of the tracks are a lot wilder, even taking you on a literal roller coaster ride at one point. Gameplay is pretty much the same as in the Wii version – not too simple, yet quite exhilarating once you pick up the controls. In fact, the game opens with a mandatory tutorial that shows you it’s more than a “slam on the gas and go” sort of arcade racer. Yes, I said mandatory as in forget about even playing the game until you can pass a few simple yet tricky driving tasks.
Power slides require insanely precise timing as you hold the Left trigger, turn into the steer then quickly turn out of it, which scores you points as long as you don’t hit anything. There are also special events activated by tapping the X button at the might moment as it moves up and down a colored bar on the left side of the screen. You’ll be able to get a huge boost at the start of a race, avoid police cars by spinning or sliding past them as well as pull off a few other fun stunts. If you don’t get the timing down, you’ll find yourself losing race after race until you can pull off stunts and keep up with the pack. It’s pretty cool to see a quick cut scene when you avoid cops or blow past another car, sending it into a spin as you end up in first place.
The game loves doling out points for careful driving, “painting” the tracks with your car’s decal if you nab golden rings around the tracks, gaining big air and much more. Once you nail the controls, you’ll be seeing your Awards (the game’s version of Achievements or Trophies) pile up as you carve your way through the courses here. it’s too bad that there are “only” 62 Awards total, as good players will be notching up most of these in a few hours of playtime. That’s not to say the game doesn’t pack in many more hours of fun. In fact, the thirteen different race events are all well done enough to keep you playing long after you’ve beaten everything the cart has to offer.
Visually, the game looks nice and colorful overall. Firebrand knows the DS hardware inside out by now and they’re pretty much the best developer for DS racing games. You get 30+ real cars zipping around some crazy fictional tracks, a decent frame rate and in general, the overall presentation here is quite nice. Sounds and music are decent enough but could have used a bit more oomph. Then again, you generally aren’t going to get audiophile-quality sounds out of the DS, so what’s here works well enough. I didn’t get to test out the multiplayer so I can’t comment on how well it functions. My only gripe with the game is the decal editor, which should be a lot more intricate in my opinion. I guess some sort of course edit function would have also been nice, but it’s really not that necessary to fully enjoy what’s here.
Overall, Need for Speed Nitro is an excellent choice for racing game fans who want a little portable action and don’t mind brightly colored cars, quirky track designs and plenty of replay value. While it’s too early to tell if any sort of follow-up is in the works, I’d love to see Firebrand on the case should the Need for Sequel arise (Ha ha! I’ll be here all week -two shows daily, three on the weekends). Anyway, go buy the game if you’re a fan of offbeat, well-designed racers.