Trackmania DS starts off with only one playable mode available: Race. In Race mode, I was tasked with getting to the end of the track within a certain time limit to score a corresponding medal in three different areas: Desert, Stadium, and Rally.
Each area has its own car and distinct feel, with Desert featuring a car that would feel at home in a destruction derby. The Desert tracks were a mixture of on-and-off road racing and is one of the more "arcadey" areas to race. With Stadium, I was seated in an F1 racer on tracks that toed the line between arcade and sim, making for a somewhat fresh driving experience. The Rally mode was by far my favorite, featuring honest-to-goodness rally racing that was unforgiving when I failed to drift a corner the correct way or turned too sharply. Though the Rally car is incredibly fast and hard to handle, it's the experience that felt closest to reality.
Once I made it through the single player races, it was time to check out the other modes I had unlocked: Puzzle and Platform. The latter is kind of an odd attempt at making a platforming racing game that put me through environments with large holes in the track, along with other obstacles. The purpose is to get through in one piece, with some of the later tracks adding specific stipulations for victory. And then there's Puzzle mode, which is a fairly complete puzzle experience that uses the game's track editor. Here, I was given a set number of pieces to make it from the beginning to the end. It's odd, but it works well enough to not be a hindrance.
I had the most fun in the track creator. Using the game's accessible track creation tools, building courses is as easy as tapping and dragging the stylus around on the touch screen. I could then save my maps and even set my own times for each of the medals. It's fun, but its full potential fails to be realized due to the fact that Trackmania DS doesn't support Nintendo Wi-Fi Connect. If the game allowed me to upload my own tracks and check out those made by others, then I would be able to get a lot more mileage out of it.
Trackmania DS has fun components, don't get me wrong, however each of these parts fails to be fully realized, like they were pulled from the oven before properly cooking. The racing is fun, but the lack of variety in courses and vehicles in the long run will likely bore racing fans. The puzzle aspect of it is a good diversion, but one must question its addition to a racing game. Is it a good idea or simply a way to get more mileage out of the track editor? Then there's the track editor itself, which is a lot of fun, but is woefully limited to local sharing, thus never realizing its full potential. Trackmania DS is a fun little racing game, but I feel like it could have been so much more.