Review: Puffins: Let's Race! (DSiWare)

Watch out for that treeeeeeeeeeeeee

Parsing the retail release Puffins: Island Adventure and putting the bits on DSiWare has proven to be a mixed bag so far. The first time around brought the underwhelming and frustratingly controlled Let's Roll!, and follow-up Let's Fish! turned out to be slightly better. So is the third time the charm?

In short, no.

Let's Race! is a kart racer without the karts; at your disposal are weapons, speed boosts and shortcuts to help flap yourself first over the finish line in the numerous multi-routed tracks and events. And should you manage to wrangle up some friends with copies, you can also duke it out in four-player races for the illustrious title of King Puffin (paper crown not included).

But just like Roll before it, Race is primarily let down by poor momentum and controls that aren't up to the task. It's all button-based, thankfully, but all the buttons in the world can't help your Puffin from feeling weighed down with lead as it plods through the courses. Acceleration is painfully slow, and turning comes with the fear of crashing into an obstacle and bouncing around the track. What's most frustrating about losing control is that you have a life gauge that appears to be impossible to replenish, and each knock and tumble ticks it down. It's fairly easy to lose half of it in one go around a poorly navigated turn, and even the most inept pilots will feel cheated as they get booted out of a track for the umpteenth time due to a rogue stone.

The courses aren't poorly designed (they're quite diverse in fact), but they demand a certain agility — the Ring mode in particular — that the controls don't allow. Along with questionable course pop-in and items that feel both uninspired and terrifying (speed boosts feel more like a handicap than an aid), the game leaves you flat and bored after a couple races and it fails to improve.

Conclusion

Third time is not the charm for these Puffins, as Let's Race is a sub-par racer that just isn't fun to play. The inclusion of multiplayer is nice to have but isn't something you'll want to spend a lot of time with. If you or a younger player you know just can't get enough Puffins then you're better off tracking down the full retail package, as by itself Race is tough to recommend.