Elasto Mania

The closest thing to Trials 2 on a handheld.

First things first, it's Elasto Mania on the DS! We had no idea it existed either. But clearly it does, because a man from Noviy Disk Company in Russia emailed us politely asking us if we'd like to preview it, and then sent over a DS cartridge.

Similar in many ways to the excellent RedLynx Trials 2: Second Edition, Elasto Mania predates it by the best part of a decade, having first asked you to navigate complex 2D platform environments on a motocross bike back when the world was about to end and Britney Spears was just getting started, shifting your weight with the cursor keys to hook the front wheel onto jagged hills you had no right climbing. The bike, that is, not Britney.

Both games kill you off when your rider's head strikes solid objects, but whereas Trials asks you to reach the end of the course with as few checkpoint resets as possible, Elasto Mania was about collecting apples and making absolutely no mistakes. Failure meant a full restart. Doing things apace - the Trials 2 endgame - came many tantrums later.

A few superficial differences aside - like the Duke Nukem menus, and stars instead of apples - the translation to DS is faithful in most of the right ways. The suspension's fluffy as pillows, as the back wheel threatens to climb inside the rider at even the gentlest start, which means that coming to a precise halt is fraught.

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At times Elma resembles motocross, but most of the time it looks like a cross between Super Mario and Unirally.

You can flip between facing left and right at the jab of a button, and performing supernatural aerial feats is brilliantly easy. Flick forward and then back as you gather speed and it's possible to launch yourself to a raised level with virtually no run-up or incline, while flips and trailing the back wheel over a thin platform to dangle beneath it are barely intermediate skills. It's even possible to control the bike completely with the d-pad - with up and down for acceleration and braking and left and right for flicking - in a throw back to the PC cursor keys interface.

At first the changes developer Mobirate has made don't seem so sweeping. The levels are their own design, for the most part, and physics now apply to objects like barrels, logs, rope bridges and seesaws, albeit in a kind of slow motion. Interestingly, going back and playing Elasto Mania on the PC illustrates how quickly the DS rider moves by comparison, too.

You can also upgrade the bike, although we haven't worked out if this is more than superficial, and pressing the Y button shows you the location of the next star you're after. Meanwhile the top screen is used as a 2D mini-map for the stage, and to remind you of your current time and the number of stars left to uncover.

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