I’ve been a Mario Kart fan since the old Super Nintendo version came out in 1992. Getting friends together to play for hours in tournaments and competitions. Surprisingly there has only been one sequel in the series, Mario Kart 64, which came out four years later in 1996 for the Nintendo 64. Mario Kart 64 was a great update to the series (some will argue with me here), allowing 4 players to play on some really great tracks. Unfortunately, we’ve seen no new installments in the Mario Kart series until now: Mario Kart: Double Dash for the Gamecube. Was it worth the wait? The graphics for Mario Kart: Double Dash are excellent. The Gamecube certainly has the ability to spray color across the screen and render beautiful scenes at high frame rates. Mario Kart successfully utilizes and shows off this graphical ability. I didn’t see any frame rate hiccups or drops. I was constantly amazed at the amount of color on the screen and the smoothness of the animation and edges. Many of the tracks are highly detailed and very large. I have to say it again, the amount of color in the game is exceptional. There are a few spots where “jaggies” are apparent but for the most part they are almost invisible. As you would expect, the areas the races take place in are very “Marioesque.” And some will be obviously familiar. Double Dash is definitely a treat to the eyes. Did I mention the wonderful use of color?
If you’ve heard one Mario game you’ve pretty much heard them all. Most of the songs used in the series are variations of what you’ve heard in other Mario games. Pretty much the same deal here. All of the music follows that ‘Mario’ style and it still works very well. I really think if they changed it too much we as players would be disappointed. The same thing pretty much applies to the sound effects for the game. Wario still sounds like Wario, “I’m a’gonna win!” Donkey Kong sounds the same (what is he saying?) All of the sound effects for items are very similar to previous games and it all still works very well.
The game does support surround but unfortunately I was only able to listen to the game in stereo mode. The game’s sound and music came through beautifully in stereo, utilizing the right and left speakers excellently.The game’s controls are very similar to Mario Kart 64 with one important thing missing: the ability to hop. Yes, unfortunately you can no longer take a small hop over small obstacles or corners of chasms. Another difference is the use of weapons and driver switching. I’ll talk more about those features in the gameplay section. After five minutes of play, I was controlling the game with no extra thought at all. Very fluid and intuitive controls. Unfortunately, if you don’t like the controls… Too bad for you. There is no way to change them.
Mario Kart: Double Dash has two basic modes: Race and Fight. In race mode you have a couple of options: Single Race, Time Trials and Grand Prix. The single race mode allows you to race against computer opponents or against up to 3 of your friends in split screen. Time Trials mode lets you race against the clock. Grand Prix mode puts the players in a race circuit with a total of 8 racers where each race earns you points depending on your placing. In each of the modes you are able to play coop or vs. with your friends. One of the biggest changes to the basic Mario Kart formula is that each cart has two characters, a driver and a weapon user. This doesn’t effect the game a whole lot except when it comes to gathering weapons or playing coop with a friend. As far as gathering weapons goes all you have to do is hit a ‘?’ block and viola, you’ve got a weapon. But each character can only have one weapon which means a maximum of two weapons per cart at anyone time. In order for both drivers to have weapons either you have to pick up a double ‘?’ block or the character in the weapon spot must be carrying no items when you hit a single ‘?’ block. Switching characters between spots is easily done by pushing the ‘z’ button. But in the heat of a race it’s a little trickier than it sounds. This addition of another driver difference is a neat change of pace but my opinion on the whole thing is that I don’t have one. I like the old Mario Kart style but I also like the Double Dash double-driver style.
The game initially has 3 race Cups with four tracks each. There are two additional cups in the game for the player to unlock (sound familiar?). Theoretically there are 32 possible unique tracks in the game. And each of them is a treat to look at but some of the more gorgeous tracks are extremely difficult. There are three difficulty modes 50cc, 100cc and 150cc and let me tell you 150cc is tough. The AI will toss everything it has at you on 150cc. Placing in the top 3 of the Grand Prix mode at the different difficulties will grant you access to better karts and possibly additional Cups and tracks. Unfortunately the amount of big shortcuts in tracks that we saw in previous Mario Kart games has dwindled. So getting that huge edge in most of the tracks is a lot tougher to do.
The other mode of play is Battle Mode. In this mode you play against your friends in non-race type events. There are three battle modes: Balloon Battle, Shine Thief and Bomb-omb Blast. Balloon thief is the classic pop all three of your opponents balloons. Shine Thief is an awesome keep-away type game where one player must steal a shine and keep it away from the players for a certain amount of time. And Bomb-omb blast is a crazy frenzied battle where everyone tries to blow up each other before they get blown up themselves.
Mario Kart: Double Dash‘s gameplay is very similar to previous iterations. There are some differences most of them good some of them not so welcome. Nonetheless it is a blast to play with friends, especially in the new battle and coop modes.Mario Kart: Double Dash provides an extreme amount of entertainment to any group of video game playing friends and will last you at least until the next Mario Kart in the series comes out. This is the kind of game you will be playing over and over again until your fingers bleed. Even at the max price tag of 50 bucks, this one is worth it.