Review: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (Nintendo Gamecube)

Game: Mario Kart: Double Dash!
System: Nintendo GameCube
Genre: Kart Racing (“Fun” Racing)
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 18th, 2003

It’s no secret that the Mario Kart franchise is an incredible one. It took the traditional racing formula, added some creative weaponry, and made it accessible to everyone. Not only that, but the multiplayer modes were highly addictive. The Mario Kart games helped usher in a brand new category of “fun” racing games, the likes of which include Diddy Kong Racing, Mickey’s Speedway, Sonic R, and Crash Team Racing. Never mind if you think they’re any good or not, but they all fall into the same category.

Now we come to the fourth installment of the Mario Kart series: Double Dash. The game was highly built up, given its rich history. But does it live up to they hype? Or did the series take an unexpected pit stop? You probably know the answer, but read on for the full scoop:

STORY

To be honest, a story is nonexistent in this game. There’s no “story mode” to speak of, and the instructions only give a flimsy “Kart racing in the Mushroom Kingdom is BACK!” bit. Therefore, I will disregard giving this category a score, and final score will be based on the other nine categories only.

Story: N/A

GRAPHICS

There are few times where I will say the next two words in a review, but this game warrants it: practically flawless. For this type of game, the graphics are executed perfectly. The characters and karts are both beautifully rendered, and have a large degree of “shininess” applied to them. (You’ll see what I mean when you play.) And given the multiple karts they ride, and the amount of animations they occupy, I see NO occurrences of clipping or slowdown. There are some jaggies to report, but you’ll hardly notice as you’re tearing up the racetracks.

Speaking of racetracks, they are equally as beautiful. Each one is detailed to perfection with items and references to the Mario universe. Plus, the worlds are filled to the brim with vibrant colors. I cannot get over the fact that the game is this beautiful. Seriously. The eye candy is THAT GOOD.

Graphics: 10/10

SOUND

Remember Mario Kart 64? Remember the revs of the engine, the jingle when you picked up power-ups? Well, they’ve returned for this game. Granted they’ve been expanded upon, but they’re there, and hardly original. The in-game voices more than make up for this. New material was recorded for the characters that could speak, but other characters like Donkey Kong and Yoshi seem to have the standard recycled material for their voices. Plus, some phrases get pretty repetitive. I swear, if I hear “Hi, I’m Daisy!” one more time…

The game shines in the music department, however. The tracks are not much to remember, but they fit the action and stages very well. You’ll hear some nice remixes of music from Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Kart 64, and some pretty good new material. You’ll enjoy it as you’re playing, but probably won’t remember it outside the game.

Sound: 7/10

GAMEPLAY

If you’ve played the past Mario Kart games, you know pretty much what to expect here. You race against seven other karts, collecting power-ups along the way to smash your opponents with and slow them down. This time, however, the game has a different hook: there are TWO PEOPLE to a kart! (Hence the title: Double Dash!!) During a race, you can switch between the racers by a push of a button, completely changing the gameplay around.

Much of the game has been slightly altered to take advantage of this new mechanic. To begin with, choosing your characters is completely different. After picking two racers, you pick a kart. Nearly every kart is unique to each character in some way, shape, or fashion. However, they are not mutually exclusive to them. You could move the Mario Brothers to Princess Peach’s kart, or the Koopa Troopas to the Mario Babies’ stroller karts. But keep in mind that depending on a character’s size, they may not be able to access certain karts. The interesting thing is that there over 2,000 combinations between racers and karts, giving you near-limitless ways to play!

As for characters, there are 16 to choose from now: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Wario, Waluigi, Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Koopa Troopa, Koopa Paratroopa, Yoshi, Birdo, Bowser, and Bowser Jr. Choosing your characters don’t affect your kart’s performance, but each has a specific power-up unique to them.

Power-ups come back with a vengeance here. You access them by collecting them on the field in “?” cubes. The cool thing is that each character can hold one item, giving you the option to stock up. There are also new “double cubes” you can get that give both members new items simultaneously.

As said earlier, racers have “character-specific” power-ups. For example, Mario and Luigi throw fireballs, the Koopa Troopas can throw multiple shells, Yoshi and Birdo fire homing eggs, and Bowser and son can fire GIGANTIC spiked shells. Some power-ups from the last game, like the Golden Mushroom, have been relegated to the “character-specific” system, so you’ll have to experiment by choosing different characters and see what combinations you like.

Another interesting feature is that you can drop your power-ups if hit hard enough. Stuff dropped this way can be used instantly by driving over them. Mushrooms will give you n instant speed burst, shells will cause you to crash, etc.

There are several modes of play, including Grand Prix, Time Trial, VS, and Battle Mode. Grand Prix lets you race four tracks to earn trophies, Time Trial will let you race any single track for the fastest time, and VS Mode is…well, players can race against each other. BUT, with the new driving mechanic in place, two players can team up on the same kart, providing a new experience to playing.

Battle Mode has received the biggest overhaul in this sense. There are now three modes of play to choose from. There’s the traditional Balloon Burst mode, where if you get hit three times, you are eliminated. Then there’s “Shine Thief”, where there’s a Shine Sprite on the field, and you must hold it for a certain length of time. Finally, my personal favorite, the “Bo-Bomb Blast” mode, where you fight using only explosive Bo-Bombs. Excellent fun to be had here.

While the Battle Mode is fun, I found the actual battle stages to be a bit disappointing. Many of them are very…flat, and seem pretty generic. they may look pleasing to the eye, but not a lot of thought was put into the terrain. Other than that, the gameplay is VERY well done, and extremely fun for multiple racers.

Gameplay: 9/10

REPLAYABILITY

There is a LOT to do in this game. You can earn trophies in Grand Prix (and unlock new modes of play), get best times in the Time Trial, and challenge your friends and rivals in Battle Mode games. In fact, that’s where you’ll probably be spending most of your time. The multiplayer options keep the game alive for an incredible amount of time. You never know how addicting these battles can be until you look at the clock, realize it’s 3AM, and wonder where the hell the time went. You’ll be coming back to this one for months.

Replayability: 9/10

BALANCE

There are three difficulties of races to choose from: 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc. These are your basic “Easy, Medium, and Hard” settings. And believe me, they DO matter when you play. The 50cc is has very easy races, the 100cc contains medium-hard races, and you’ll just about kill yourself obtaining the gold trophies on the 150cc level. So there is a good range of difficulty to go by when playing.

Balance: 8/10

ORIGINALITY

When I first heard of the game, I thought it was going to be very hard for Nintendo to come up with something new for the franchise. For the most part, they did. It follows the same basic formula as Mario Kart 64, in the fact that there are the same options and modes of play as the N64 game. However, with the inclusion of the dual-kart system, TONS of old and new drivers, plenty of unique karts, new power-ups, new Battle modes, and other odds and ends, the game ends up being VERY different than before. You’ll just have to play to see how different it can be.

Originality: 8/10

ADDICTIVENESS

You want an addictive game experience, you’ve come to the right place. As said above, the multiplayer modes will keep you busy for hours upon hours on end. And with the multiple kart combinations there are, you will be busy for MONTHS figuring out what kind of character/kart combination woks best for you.

Addictiveness: 9/10

APPEAL FACTOR

There is no doubt that this game flew off the shelves on launch day, and is STILL flying off the shelves even now. Being that it’s a Mario title for one, it already has a guaranteed fan base. Since it’s a Mario KART title, it’ll appeal even more to fans of Mario, race games, and/or a combination of the two. Ergo, the game has a high appeal factor.

Appeal Factor: 9/10

MISCELLANEOUS

What really got me into the game was the fact that the game is packed with past game references, both general AND obscure. They took racetrack ideas from PAPER MARIO, for crying out loud! You’ll see enemies like Goombas, Piranha Plants, Shy Guys, and Chain Chomps littering the fields. Heck, the Bowser’s Castle track actually has you feeling like you’re going through Bowser’s Castle!

Also, this game has the most things to unlock out of any version of Mario Kart I’ve seen. Every gold trophy earned either unlocks a new kart, new battle stages, new tracks, or new characters. Yes, I said new character. There are a total of four hidden racers, extending the roster to 20 altogether. These guys also have unique character-specific power-ups, and are a joy to play as.

And trust me, when you think you’re done unlocking everything, the game keeps throwing you curveballs to keep you coming back. Finish all the cups? Try the Special Cup! Finish all those races? Try the All-Cup Tour? Somehow manage to win THAT? You need to do EVERYTHING again in Mirror Mode! Surprise!

Miscellaneous: 8/10

THE SCORES

Story: N/A
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 7/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Replayability: 9/10
Balance: 8/10
Originality: 8/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Appeal Factor: 9/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10
TOTAL: 77/90 (8.5) GREAT
(Review’s Tilt: Same)