Puffins: Lets Race
DSiWare | Other Ocean Interactive | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
From the Main Menu, you can select 'Let's Race!' for a solo experience, or 'Multiplayer' for wireless sessions amongst friends. When you head into the mode for single play, you'll notice that the setup is exactly like what was seen in Let's Roll and Let's Fish. By completing a level, you'll open up other levels that are directly connected to it. There's over 25 events in total, and given how much time you'll spend with each one, this game offers more in the way of content and longevity than its counterparts.
All the action takes place on the bottom screen, while the top screen holds your map display. Holding A at the start of a race gets you moving, while the D-Pad is used to move left and right, B is used to brake, L for items, and you can even press the R Button for a quick jump into the air. As you move your puffin around the track, the entire stage moves with you - almost like Super Monkey Ball. All tracks feature bright rings that you can pass through for a quick speed burst.
In addition to having obstacles such as snowmen, trees, and brick walls, you'll also find a good number of items. Now the items in the game are pretty standard affair. You have your obligatory speed boost and invincibility shield, but you also have a tornado power-up that allows you to fire gusts of wind at people in front of you, or leave a stagnant mine behind you. Either way, opponents will go spinning 'round in place for a short time, giving you a chance to catch up.
Each race is split up into multiple categories: Single Race, Tournament, Ring Race, and Time Battle. In Ring Race, you need to pass through bright rings to add to seconds to a timer that constantly counts down. Time Battle is essentially a 'Time Trial' mode where you race on your own against the clock. The other two modes are pretty self-explanatory.
Naturally, you also have a variety of themed tracks. The first few levels involve racing through a mountainous region of sorts, but later on you get to travel to an ice-covered track, and even a town-like area. The levels were decent for the most part, not only in design, but visuals as well. In both categories, nothing really stood out. However, I felt that some tracks were a bit demanding for a kids game, which is something to keep in mind.
On that note, this whole game is a lot more challenging than I had originally expected. Getting in first place is almost hard to do, and usually only happens on the second or third lap, provided you don't crash. Most children won't bother with the brake function at all, but because of how easy it is to bump all over the place, the game forces you to take this into consideration later on. And this is a problem for the target market the developers are aiming towards. They definitely took a risk with the difficulty, but the results aren't entirely admirable. Added to the fact that the game offers no obvious explanation on how to play, and you can see that some of the choices they made weren't entirely wise.
With each event, you can set goals for yourself to perform well, and depending on the outcome, you may even get rewarded with a collectable trophy. Or, if you've already mastered an event, you can always aim for a new record. Even if it was small, I did appreciate the level of variety the developers went for in almost everything about the release. And, really, it's the most varied of all the Puffins releases. The only thing that wasn't as good was the music. Once again, Other Ocean has included repetitive music, and this doesn't do much for the game as a whole.
Puffins: Let's Race is the only game of the three that features multiplayer support for up to 4 players. You can participate in Single Race, Time Battle, or Tournament events amongst friends. Unfortunately, this is restricted to Wireless Play only. I felt this was a huge waste because, for one, it's doubtful anyone you know would have this game to begin with, unless you recommended it to them. And this actually ties into my second point: Download Play would've been great not only for accessibility, but even for showing your friends what the game is like. If they enjoyed their experience with it, they would have likely been motivated to get the game for themselves. So that was a shame.
Although it has some issues that will certainly frustrate children, I think Puffins: Let's Race is a pretty good game for kids. The degree of challenge and variety are somewhat commendable, but some of the level designs aren't well-tailored to younger players. At least initially, your child or close relative should have some fun with it. Whether they continue playing long enough to get the most of the $5 price tag is another story. And with the lack of Download Play, they may soon tire of playing on their own all the time. But for kids who enjoy racing games and have played a majority of what the DS already has to offer, you could do a lot worse.
21/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Typical item selection, no problems with the controls, tracks can be somewhat demanding in what they expect, multiple race types
Presentation 7/10 - More variety than other Puffins releases, repetitive music returns, visuals and track designs are decent, nothing really stands out
Enjoyment 3/5 - Can be frustrating for younger kids to have challenging AI, but others may find this motivating, most fun when you first start playing
Extra Content 4/5 - Good number of events, Gold Trophies, high-scores, Wireless Multiplayer, lack of Download Play reduces replayability, not bad for $5
Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)