The next step in Mario Kart’s evolution is here with Mario Kart Double Dash!! Two riders are now on every kart with one character driving while the other throws weapons. The experience is definitely fun, but some of the classic elements have been removed.
The Mario Kart series has single handedly designed the kart racer. The first Mario Kart appeared on SNES, and fans have been craving more ever since. Nintendo has answered the fans’ call by placing two racers on each kart. Racers can now switch positions on the fly any time during a race. This is where strategy comes into place. If a character has good acceleration then they should be the one to drive right from the beginning, but a character with a higher top speed or better handling might want to be used when a turn or straight away is approaching.
Before engaging in a race or battle, the player must choose from a healthy selection of characters from the Mario universe. The first character chosen will start off driving while the other will begin in the back. Different karts can also be selected. If the player chooses a Heavy character (Bowser, Wario, Donkey Kong) then they will have to play in a Heavy kart. Similar to Heavy characters, Smaller characters (Baby Luigi, Baby Mario, Koopas,) are forced to ride in small karts. However, if a Heavy character is paired with a Small character the pair must ride in a heavy kart. You cannot ride in a kart that is smaller than the biggest character. Along with Heavy and Small characters, Medium characters can also take to the track. These include Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, and Peach to name a few. Many characters are available from the start and four are unlockable.
A Mario Kart game would not be complete without weapons and items. Old and new items can be found in Double Dash!! Banana peels, fake items boxes, koopa shells, stars, lighting bolts, and mushrooms all make an expected return. New to Double Dash are character exclusive special items. Donkey and Diddy Kong can now obtain a huge banana peel that explodes into three banana peels when a kart runs over it. Bowser and Baby Bowser can launch giant Bowser shells that run over anything in its path. Mario and Luigi can throw five fireballs at once that bounce in every direction. Players that get hit with these special items drop the items that they were holding. These items then are laid out on the course and they can hit anyone. But not all of the dropped items are bad. Mushrooms and stars can now be found lying around a course, and once run over, they are used immediately. Most items can even be launched forward or backwards.
When the character in the front is driving, any item box that is run over will immediately be sent to the character in the rear. However, after the rear character obtains a weapon and the players switch positions, another weapon can be collected by the character that is now in the back. Not only is switching drivers important to suit the driving conditions, but more weapons can be collected at a single time. Double item boxes can also be found on the track that gives an item to the driver and the character in the back of the kart. If this happens, once the character in the back uses the weapon, the driver must hand off his weapon by pressing the “Y” button. Teamwork and cooperation is key.
Two human players can play together on one kart. One person drives while the other uses the weapons and items. Two humans on a kart is slightly different than driving single-manned. Boost turns make their return in Double Dash!! When a turn is approaching, the driver can hold down a shoulder button and a direction with the analog stick to begin sliding. When boost sliding, speed doesn’t drop but it can be slightly difficult to control the turn. However, it doesn’t go without its rewards. If one human player is driving a kart, he can boost turn by himself. On a turn, the player needs to hold down “R” along with the corresponding direction. Once the sliding begins, the player needs to press Right and Left on the analog until the flames from the kart turn blue. Once blue flames are flaring, releasing the shoulder button cause the kart to gain a boost of speed. Boost turns are essential in the Mario Kart universe. However, if two humans are in the same kart, the boosting requires teamwork. The player driving the kart sends the kart into the slide while the player in the back presses left and right until the blue flame appears. Also, the player in the back can punch or kick incoming karts with use of the shoulder buttons in the corresponding direction. If the rear character attacks in this way and successfully hits an opponent kart with an item, then that item becomes yours. Stealing items is very satisfying. Plus, when the rear player attacks, the kart will move laterality. If can be a great last ditch effort to avoid an on coming car or laid weapon.
Mario Kart wound not be complete without Battle Mode. There are three different kinds of battles in Double Dash!! First is the regular Balloon Battle. Here, players have three balloons attached to their kart. When an item hits them, they lose a balloon. The last player to have remaining balloons is the winner. However, players that have been knocked out do not return as a small bomb-om as they did in Mario Kart 64. This can leave knocked out players bored. I do not know why they eliminated this lovely feature. New to the Mario Kart series is Shine Thief and Bomb Blast. In Shine Thief mode, a Shine from Mario Sunshine is placed on the field. The objective is to hold it for set amount of time. However, if a weapon or item hits you, you drop the Shine. Bomb Blast is a really fast and fun mode of play. The only weapons available in this mode are bombs. Everyone starts off with score of zero and the first to three wins. If player one successfully hits player two, then player one gains a point. However, if player two successfully attacks player one, player one will lose his point while player two will gain one. This can make battles long and intense. Also, if players don’t want to battle in Battle Mode, then they can race in Vs Mode. The maximum amount of players for Grand Prix Mode is four humans with two on each kart. But Vs mode can be played with any amount of human players. Vs mode is racing on tracks but without computer controlled karts.
Mario Kart is meant to be played with multiple people and Nintendo knows this. That is why they included a LAN mode. Up to eight Cubes can be connected to eight televisions. This means that 16 people can play at one time with two humans on each kart. Plus, everyone can have their own screen. If you want to LAN your Cubes, Broadband adapters and Ethernet cables are required. Because of lack of online games for GameCube, finding Broadband adapters can be difficult. Hopefully Nintendo will start producing more.
Mario Kart is definitely a fun game, especially with Cubes linked up, but there are some flaws with it. First, karts no longer have the ability to hop. In every other Mario Kart, a tap of the “R” button will send your character hopping and into a slide turn. Hopping was a great way to avoid weapons and jumping gaps. I think Nintendo eliminated this feature because it lead to many unintentional short cuts and glitches in Mario Kart 64. Second, players can no longer hold weapons behind them. Holding weapons from the rear of your kart was a great way to stop heat-seeking shells and other incoming attacks as it made a preventive barrier in the rear. With this option gone, it can be hard to stop incoming attacks. Coins are also gone. In the original Mario Kart and in the one for GBA, coins were collected to increase top speed and prevent you from spinning out. There are no coins in this Mario Kart but I think it probably works to its benefit because of the multiple players. If the coin system was placed in this game, I think it might have made too much clutter on the course.
The developers had a great multiplayer experience in mind when creating this game but it bothers me that two human players cannot play as the same character. For example, player one cannot be Princess Peach if player two already chose her. I don’t understand how this would work if eight Cubes were linked up. There would be a fight to see who could select their character of choice the quickest. Also, there should have been an option to look behind you. There are enough buttons on the Cube controller to do this as both shoulder buttons serve the same purpose. “R” should have been assigned strictly to slide turning and “L” should be a view from behind. The C-Stick or D-Pad could have been assigned this feature as they do nothing in the game. One other but minor annoyance is that the player cannot use the D-Pad in the menu select screens. Using the analog in a menu can be inaccurate sometimes.
One other negative aspect of this game is the computer cheating. Computer players will often move faster than you even though they are in the same type of kart without getting a boost turn. This mostly happens on 150cc. Further, weapons don’t seem to stop computer players from time to time. Heat seekers will miss and lightning bolts won’t shrink them. When you do manage to make your way into first place, the computer will always give you the same weak items. Banana peels and green shells are the only weapons you will get. These weapons can be shot backwards to attack incoming karts, but I would have liked to get an occasion special character item or a few heat seekers. Making its return is the spiny shell. This blue shell will hunt down the first place person and cause a massive explosion. The player will probably only get this item when they are in one of the last places. However, if they manage to make there way to the front of the pack while still holding this spiny shell, they cannot use it. If you use it, even if you shoot it backward, it will come right back and it will hit yourself. I find this to be kind of shady. You work hard to get up to the front only to hit yourself. I think it should hit the second place person.
The graphics in this game are very smooth and support 3-D models. All characters are well animated and there are some nice particle effects. I only noticed a few instances of clipping such as when Peach’s hair moves through parts of the kart. If players have bigger characters such as Bowser or Pete the Piranha in the back of the kart, it can be difficult to see directly in front of you because of their big size. The music is very fun and upbeat and compares closely to Mario Kart 64. There is some great voice work and sound effects in this game too (Baby Bowser’s cry is one of the best in the game).
The controls in this game are solid and work well with the GC controller. “A” is the accelerator, “B” breaks, “Y” or “X” is used to pass weapons to the character in the rear or to use the item depending on how many humans are on the kart, and “Z” switches positions. When two humans are on the same kart, “Z” must be pressed at the same time by both players to switch drivers. The player in the rear can attack by punching by using the corresponding shoulder buttons. The rear player can also taunt by pressing “A” when there is no weapon or item equipped. Strangely, the D-Pad and C-Stick are not used. One of them should be used to control different camera angles or look behind you. This would alleviate the problem of not seeing in front of you when you are using bigger sized characters.
This game has tons of replay value. There are three difficulties to play on and each one for each cup unlocks something new. New characters, new karts, and new battle mode levels can all be unlocked. Besides the tons of unlockables, Time Trial can be used to improve your fastest times. During time trial, each character holds one mushroom. These two speed-bursting mushrooms are the only items you will get in Time Trial. The game keeps track of all your fastest times. You can even save your own Ghost to compete with yourself in future races. Staff ghosts can be unlocked by getting a really fast time in each level. These staff ghosts are ghosts from the experts at Nintendo. Multiplayer battle mode is how you are supposed to play Mario Kart. Linking up Cubes and the three modes of play will keep you and your friends busy for hours.
Mario Kart Double Dash is definitely a fun game. The multiplayer factor of linking up Cubes and two characters on a kart probably make it the best Mario Kart to date, but it still has flaws. I would have liked to see the “R” button hop return and the ability to hold weapons behind your kart should be in the game. But stealing items, and exclusive character items make up for this. No Cube owner should go without owning this game because of its fun factor and tons of replay value. If you don’t own a Cube, then play Mario Kart 64 or the fantastic installment on GBA, Super Circuit. Double Dash!! is a welcomed addition to the Mario Kart family and it still reigns supreme in the kart racing category.
And if you pre-ordered this game, you were treated to a nice demo disc that featured playable demos of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Rogue Squadron, and more. It even has a GC to GBA link function for the newly released Fire Emblem (also a great game). Plus you can watch trailers for soon to be released games. Whatta deal!!