DS

North America

Indianapolis 500 Legends

by Carmine Red - February 6, 2008, 8:48 pm PST
Total comments: 3

4.5

Race and race and race on the Nintendo DS!

Indianapolis 500 Legends treats itself like a racing simulation as opposed to an arcade racer, and consequently requires more attention, patience and subtlety from its players. Thankfully, it also manages to offers a lot of bite-size pieces of racing fun on the Nintendo DS without sacrificing any authenticity.

The game's Classic mode may be a race of anywhere from ten to 200 laps, but it autosaves after every lap so you can jump in and out of a race at will. Mission mode takes players through quick objective-based challenges which are inspired by real rivalries and situations from the years 1961 to 1971. These missions can vary in length from 30 seconds to three minutes, so with 11 years to play through and the lure of "I almost had it that time," this mode is surprisingly captivating. One of the most unique and exciting challenges is based on crashes: players race at top speed while avoiding getting entangled in the wild chaos created by fourteen other out-of-control cars. You can also play the game wirelessly with friends, but only if everyone has their own game cart.

Indianapolis 500 Legends proudly displays its heritage by narrating actual historical footage and photos between missions. It almost feels like a little snippet of the History Channel on your DS. But this authenticity comes at a price: the Indianapolis 500 takes place on one track and one track only. The cars will get faster and handle differently, but only subtly so. It feels like you're always racing with cars that are exactly like yours on the same giant oval racetrack. These are troubling signs indeed for anyone who expects variety and surprises out of a game.

While there aren’t any red shells to fire at opponents, Legends has a wonderfully-implemented slingshot mechanic which is your primary means of bypassing rivals. Simply stay close on another car's tail (marked by blue lines trailing behind it), and a meter will fill up. If you can stay in position long enough for the meter to fill completely, you can trigger a boost that will give you a burst of extra speed and help you move up in position. That is, if it’s used responsibly.

Yes, players have to be more restrained in Indianapolis 500 Legends. When all the cars have almost the same max speed, catching up after a mistake relies on patience and efficient racing instead of things like blue shells. The game injects a real sense of danger to reckless driving because a single crash at high speed can really set you back. And you'll also need to be dedicated enough to make periodic pit stops, playing the associated mini-games to keep your car cornering and racing at its best.

This is all fine and dandy for players looking for a more realistic and demanding racing challenge. But anyone looking for another Mario Kart will find that Indianapolis 500 Legends has little else to offer. The graphics engine impressively places fifteen cars on-screen racing at high speeds with no frame rate issues (even during frenzied crashes), but the lack of visual variety makes the game unremarkable. In the sound department there are all the appropriate engine noises and even a handful of different music tracks, but if you're not already enjoying racing lap after lap you won't be impressed.

Game controls are a final and unfortunate sticking point. You can opt to control the game with the D-Pad and buttons, or with the stylus controlling a touchscreen steering wheel. It's difficult to corner without burning rubber if you're using the digital D-pad to steer your car, while stylus control is problematic when you're trying to make small steering corrections. Stylus steering is also very sensitive, leading to over-correction when making large movements. With practice, both control styles can lead you to victory, but it's a shame that there's no unified method.

The bottom line is that Indianapolis 500 is still fun, but only if you can overlook the very limited scope of the game. Beyond that you'll need to concentrate on the game's historical context, as well as determinedly using the sling-shot maneuver to pass opponents either three, or 200, laps at a time.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
5 6 4.5 4.5 4 4.5
Graphics
5

The game does have fifteen cars traveling at great speed without hiccups, but the lack of any real aesthetic diversity weighs the game down. The actual historical footage is a nice touch.

Sound
6

Engines roar, tires squeal, and there's more and better music than one would expect. The narrator for the historical segments sounds authentic. Oddly, it lacks sound effects for car crashes.

Control
4.5

Neither the stylus or all-button setups offer the perfect solution. At the same time, neither setup will actually inconvenience you enough to prevent you from landing in first place once you've put in some practice.

Gameplay
4.5

If you're a fan of this type of serious racing gameplay, what's here is appealing and straightforward. But if you're not a fan, you're going to be hard-pressed to define the game as particularly exciting.

Lastability
4

The game offers eleven years of missions for you to play through and you can race two-hundred laps at a time. It's a valiant effort, but the game's inherent lack of variety can result in players losing interest.

Final
4.5

In the end, those who want variety and instant gratification will find Indianapolis 500 Legends a bad fit. This game is really only suited for those out there with the patience, dedication, and disposition to enjoy the allure and restraint of a historical simulation racer.

Summary

Pros
  • Excellent use of missions and autosaving for a portable-friendly experience
  • Historical footage helps put the game's missions in proper context
  • The slingshot mechanic really shines
Cons
  • Both control schemes have their drawbacks
  • Lack of diverse experiences makes gameplay wear thin quickly
  • There's not a lot of visual variety
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

MarioFebruary 07, 2008

Good review, but what on earth does Mario Kart have to do with this? Is that what you associate racing with?

I think the Mario Kart comparisons come from the fact that there isn't much in the way of racing games on the DS besides Mario Kart and comparing a game to the top game in its genre on its platform is a standard part of a review.

Yay! Insanolord likes me!



Yeah, I'm using MK to contrast Indy 500 Legends with because the comparison helps illustrate the different type of approach that Indy 500 Legends takes with racing, as well as gives most readers a standard anchor point from which they can start.

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Genre Racing
Developer
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Indianapolis 500 Legends
Release Oct 2007
PublisherDestineer Studios
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