When given the opportunity to review Pimp my Ride: Street Racing for the Nintendo DS, I initially assumed that it would be a terrible game. The original Pimp my Ride was plagued with tons of unnecessary mini games, such as “ghost ride da whip” (dancing outside your car whilst it drives) and “flossing da honeys” (driving by some ladies to get their reaction to your pimped-out “whip”). Luckily, most of that stuff has been stripped out of the game, as have Xzibit and the bright idea of earning money by damaging your vehicle. For me, these exclusions are all for the better. It seems that this game is much less 'based' on the show “Pimp my Ride” and more 'inspired' by it, which gives it more room to be itself.
This new entry in the series seems to be a weird lovechild of the original Pimp my Ride game and Need for Speed. While the same overdone “street” talk is still in place, it's layered on top of a game that is both competent and somewhat fun. The lingo gets really old really fast, and seems fake. Imagine your grandmother suddenly taking to speaking like Snoop Dogg, things like “fo’ shizzle” would not be uncommon. Imagine how embarrassing that would be. That’s exactly how I felt reading the instruction book, and any text in the game. If only it weren't for the fact that money is called “scrilla” and the city you play in called “Pimp City” (even though it contains landmarks like the Arc de Triomphe and Big Ben), it was the overall way this was presented that hurts it. This almost makes it seem like they took a game about racing all over the world, and slapped a bad license on top of it. Luckily the game shines through.
As stated, the gameplay for Pimp my Ride: Street Racing is surprisingly fun and varied. At its heart PMR is an arcade racer, meaning that the realism is taken down a notch in favor of flashy jumps (called "scrilla jumps"), and other genre staples. For instance, when you ram into another car, you don't crash, but simply slow down and deflect that car off of you. This is similar to other games like Cruisin’ and Rush.
When you first start the game you are presented with a few options. First, there is a section called “Pimp My Ride” where you can take all of the parts you've earned through various races and apply them to your cars. In your garage, you can customize and modify cars from a panel of parts: decals, paint jobs, grills, wheels, rims and more. Some parts are only cosmetic; others increase the performance to maximize speed, acceleration, braking or handling. You get “scrilla” for completing races, which lets you buy new parts. You don't actually buy parts, they're already there, your scrilla level just determines if you're respected enough to use it.
The next option is the Career mode, which consists of 20 stages, all containing three races and a bonus race in each. In order to progress you need to place third or higher in each race, as well as consider a bonus objective. These bonus objectives are quite fun and really add to the game. They vary from having to collect gold coins on the track, to time trials, to having to crash into another car and deplete its life bar. What is good about these objectives is that they are so varied that you see new ones all of the time, and they are rarely repeated except for the coin ones and time trials. If that wasn’t enough, for the most meticulous completionists there are also Achievements present in the game (ala PSN trophies and XBL achievements) that give you bonuses once unlocked. These achievements include finishing all tracks, or getting all bonus objectives. On the track, the other cars have decent A.I., as they try to cut you off or ram you if you get too close, which makes the races that much more intense. The game also does not suffer from rubber band A.I., an annoying trend found in most racing games.
After the career mode, the last option is a normal arcade style mode called “Quick Race”, where you are given a stock car and simply race to the finish. This is there so that you don’t have to mess with bonus objectives, or customizations and can just get a feel for the tracks.
The controls in Pimp My Ride: Street Racing are fairly simplistic. You hold the “A” button to accelerate and press “Y” to use the handbrake. These two options can also be performed with the shoulder buttons. The braking system is decent, as you have to use it to drift around corners in heated races, but it only becomes useful when your car is modified to be really fast. In earlier stages, braking would stop me completely. The game uses minimal if any touch screen control whatsoever, which is good in my opinion, as handheld racers are often hard to control. The only problem I see with the way the game controls is that the cars seem to under-steer sometimes, and I would crash into the walls a lot before I got used to the game's shortfalls.
One thing that really stands out in Pimp my Ride: Street Racing is that the graphics are generally above average for a DS game. The tracks are large and sprawling and have beautiful backgrounds behind them. There is very little of the pop-up that usually hinders games like this in the DS quite a bit. All of the famous landmarks are done well and you can definitely tell what they are. For instance, in London you see Big Ben, the Tower of London, London bridge, and the Millennium Eye all around you at various times. The placement of these landmarks is not realistic - you drive under the Eiffel Tower in the Paris level - but it's close enough to give you a sense of where you are.
The cars themselves do not look as good as the environments, but that is mainly due to the ridiculous mods you put on them. In order to get your pimp rating up, you seemingly need to make you car the brightest color ever, and make it have garish add-ons like bull horns and huge spoilers. Because of this, you sometimes end up staring at your hideous car too much.
The crash effects are decent, but this is no Burnout. If you run into a wall the game shifts into slow motion and you see fire leap out of your car. While this effect is not the best looking, it gets the job done. One thing that would have helped make this game feel more realistic is vehicle damage (such as dents and broken windows).
Pimp my Ride’s sound isn’t bad but it gets pretty repetitive sometimes. The game contains a handful of tracks inspired by hip-hop, punk, and other MTV mainstays. These tracks aren’t too bad, but sound a bit like generic ringtone music - you'll probably zone them out quickly. The game could have been better with real licensed songs, but the limitations of the DS' storage capacity likely hindered this. Aside from that, the other sounds, including car noises, brakes and others are well done, but nothing stands out.
If you are looking for a handheld street racer, and can get past the terrible game license, Pimp my Ride: Street Racing is actually pretty fun. It has tons of replayability and options for a budget priced game. The only thing that would have made this game the complete package, and one of the best DS racers, would have been some sort of multiplayer. This game unfortunately has no online or single cart multiplayer, but this is understandable considering the low price of around $20. If you try to do everything, Pimp my Ride: Street Racing can easily last upwards of ten hours, which is quite large for a game like this on a handheld. The bottom line is this: if you can stomach all of the fake street talk there aren't too many racing games of this quality on the DS.