Developer: Torus Games
Release Date: December 19, 2007
Ever since it was released over 5 years ago, the Nintendo DS has proven to be a viable source of games in every available genre. From RPGs to platformers to adventure games, there's no shortage of good games if you pick up the dual-screen portable console. This adage holds true for the racing genre as well. Games like Asphalt: Urban GT 2, Mario Kart DS and Ridge Racer DS have shown that the handheld can handle a racing title as good and as exciting as the home-based consoles. Of course, the console has also been home to some really bad racing games like Need for Speed Nitro and Ford Racing 3. Destineer has teamed up with Torus Games, a veteran developer of games on Nintendo's portable consoles, to bring a new entry to the racing genre on the Nintendo DS. The result is Indianapolis 500 Legends, a game that falls right in the middle of the quality line for what the system has to offer.
There are a few game modes included in the title. Classic mode lets you customize the race however you want. You start with the era in which you want to race, which will help determine both the car you'll race in as well as the cars you'll race against. From there, you can determine any number of laps from 10 to 200. Once the race begins, you'll have to try and beat 15 other racers on the famous Indianapolis 500 track to get to the number one position. Unless you turn off the option, you'll have to deal with making sure that your car is still in good condition by not taking too much damage. Anytime your car's tires or fuel starts to run low, you'll have the option to get it repaired at the pit stops. From there, you'll have a series of mini-games, such as re-fueling your tank or changing your tires quickly, before getting back on the race. Just like any good racing pit crew, you have to be fast or risk falling far behind the rest of the pack when you re-enter the race.
Mission mode carries a bit more structure when compared to Classic mode. As you play through each era of the race, you get a brief video history on the major events surrounding the big racers during the time. From there, you are tasked with taking a racer and reliving or rewriting those big moments on the track. Depending on who you are racing as, your tasks can range from getting the fastest qualifying time to finishing with a certain position by a specified lap. Completing the tasks for each racer will open up the ability to play as that racer if you choose the specific era in both Classic and Multiplayer modes.
The core mechanics of the game actually aren't that bad. The racing is fine, with a good sense of speed given to these machines. The Mission mode is a great way to give the racing genre some background story and show newcomers why the Indianapolis 500 is such a revered track among race fans. The ability to race with cars in different eras also goes to show just how cars have evolved throughout the years. Unfortunately, there are as many bad elements in the game as there are good. For starters, you cannot create a race between cars of different eras. If you select a car from 1965, for example, all of your opponents will also come from that same year. It would have been fascinating to see how an older car would go up against one from a later time period. There is also only one track to choose from. Yes, the game is called Indianapolis 500 Legends, but it would have been nice to see some variety in the tracks. Even something as simple as weather changes would have been nice. Finally, the opponents follow their lines a bit too strictly. Because they don't tend to deviate at all from their given path, don't be surprised to see them bumping into you if you get in their way. This tends to lead into restarting levels, since their damage will not only push you off-course but also reduce your speed dramatically and damage your car severely, making you feel that the game is being cheap.
The multiplayer isn't too bad, as long as you know the limitations going in. Like Classic mode, you'll race against other cars from the same era on the famous Indianapolis speedway. You can still set up the number of laps in the race, but this time, you'll be doing so with three other human players. The connection between players really holds up well, as there is no lag present during these matches. You will still be plagued with racing cars only from the same era and only having one track to deal with, but at the very least, you can still squeeze some fun out of this mode for a few races.
As far as controls go, it's a mix of both pleasant and terrible. Choosing the standard control method allows you to use the d-pad for movement, while the face buttons handle acceleration and braking. With this control scheme, everything feels responsive no matter what car you're using, making the driving become a pleasant experience. The alternate control method requires the face buttons or the d-pad to be used for acceleration and braking, while the touch-screen is used to steer the car. The last time a driving game gave user this option was with Ridge Racer DS. The handling of the car in that title seemed unresponsive and clunky, and the case remains the same here. Players will definitely be better off using the standard control method instead of the touch-screen to control their vehicles. The bad controls for the touch-screen also carry over to the pit crew mini-games. Refueling the car isn't so bad, but the controls for tire changing aren't descriptive enough to let you know what you should be doing. This is especially true of the sections where you have to hammer the hubcaps in order to take out the tire. Once you figure out the correct method to remove a tire, you'll dread doing the task again since it's so difficult to begin with. On a side note, the game only features automatic transmission. Players who favor manual shifting in their driving games will be sorely disappointed to find it absent here.
For a game coming from a publisher known for its budget titles, the graphics here are quite good. The cars look good despite the fact that there aren't a lot of details to be seen on them. The track looks fine, and everything moves at a nice clip with no hints of slowdown anywhere. The particle effects from the smoke look fine. It isn't amazing, but it isn't terrible either. The one real knock for the game in this category is the fact that the game has some draw-in issues whenever you pass by the stands. It's not terrible, but it is noticeable enough whenever you race by it.
The sound isn't as bad as one would expect. The sound effects come off pretty clearly, even through the tiny DS speakers. Engine roars have some great bass, while the tire screeches and car crashing sound fine. The only voice in the game comes from the video montages for the era you're about to race in, and while it isn't anything special, the narrator does a god job of making Indianapolis 500 history interesting to listen to. What's interesting in this category is the music. The score fits the eras nicely, but it isn't exactly the music that you'd expect from a serious racing game; you won't turn it up or down once a race begins.
Indianapolis 500 Legends stays in the middle of the road. The mini-games in the pit are more bothersome than fun, while the opponent's AI makes the game more frustrating than it should be. However, the graphics are good, and the single-player challenges are a great way to keep the player engaged in the story being told. If you're a racing fan looking for something a bit different, there are certainly better racing options on the DS, but you could do worse than picking up this title.Score: 6.3/10
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