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Nintendo DS Review: ATV Quad Frenzy

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There’s a market for decent ATV racing titles. That DS isn’t capable of offering much to that market though, especially when it’s designed like Quad Frenzy. The lack of an analog stick is critical, and the glaring lack of play modes is even worse.

Actually, there may be something in here to do, but the user interface is so abysmal, there’s no way to tell what’s going on. The two championship modes are unnecessary, confusing, and off-putting from the start. Four player multi-card play is fine, and jumping into a quick race is painless. The core game modes are simply baffling.

The two championships are separated by their scoring system. One adds in the games broken trick system, the other focuses squarely on racing. However, they’re separate, so buying the three different types of parts and earning money means you’ll need to take on each separately. Thanks to the interface, it’s hard to know when the data is saved, what race you need to take on next, or what exactly you need to be doing. For instance, after selecting a rider, changing their suits, and picking an ATV, you’re kicked back to the main menu instead of going into a race.

After you take the effort to navigate all of that, the actual racing screams budget design. The rarely seen voxel technology makes an appearance here, and most developers don’t use it because it hasn’t been seen since the SNES era. It’s a 3-D technology that eliminates the need for polygons (to help with the frame rate), but the blocky roads and frustrating pop-up isn’t worth the benefits.

It can be difficult to make out the flags you’re supposed to be navigating through on some tracks. That’s assuming you can even grasp your bearings since once you’ve set up the race, you’re tossed onto the track without any type of a countdown or indication the race has started. Press the gas down as soon as the transition from menu to game is complete.

Turning is ridiculous, mostly due to the console’s lack of an analog stick. The touch screen may have provided some relief to the tight and impossible to handle scheme implemented here, yet it’s never used except on the menus (where the buttons do the same thing just fine). Be prepared to flip around constantly, tip over, or clip objects regularly. It’s possible to gain control with some practice. However, the course design with all its tight corners doesn’t feel like something ATVs should be competing on.

This is a problem even with the speed of the vehicles, rarely going above 60. It’s realistic, though not particularly enjoyable. The trick system is only needed in the alternate championship mode, and that renders this mode pointless. Instead of the barely used X and Y buttons (which only switch the camera a bit), you need to take your thumb off the gas or the brake to hit the select button to choose which trick you want. When airborne, you hit A and B together.

That sounds simple, aside from being the single racing title in the history of gaming to ever use the select button for a key gameplay mechanic. Sadly, crashing is handled unbelievably bad, putting the rider back on the ATV in the exact same spot they wiped out. In other words, if your ATV spun out after you flew off, you’ll hop back on looking backwards, at a wall, or blankly into space with no clue as to what direction you’re supposed to be moving in. The only help is an arrow on the bottom screen that points to the finish line, an immediate sign of the track design gone wrong and it’s terribly confusing after slamming into a wall since it’s not relative to your position.

It’s always funny to see how a game is marketed on its box. For ATV Quad Frenzy, the tagline is that it will “set your DS on fire.” For once, they’re right. Your DS will be flung into a fireplace after spending an hour figuring out the menus to go into a race to turn the first corner and lose because you slammed into a wall (you’ll rarely be able to catch up). Then you’ll need to go through the menus again and do it all over. That’s when you realize this mess isn’t worth the trouble.

ATV Quad Frenzy is a rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.