GCN Review: Mario Kart: Double Dash
Review by: Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)

Game Info

 System: GameCube
 ESRB: Everyone
 Genre: Racing
 # of Players: 1-8
 Developer: Nintendo
 Publisher: Nintendo

 Save: 5 blocks

 Release Date:
 US: Nov 17, 2003
 EU: Nov 14, 2003
 JP: Nov 7, 2003

Screenshots:

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Final Score:
8.0/10

Reviewed on: July 26, 2004

Mario Kart games have been a staple on Nintendo's video game systems. And likewise, it's no surprise that it makes its way onto the Nintendo GameCube. Mario Kart: Double Dash is a little different from the previous three Mario Kart games, each kart holds two characters, one drives, and the other handles the items, and you can do the ol' switcheroo whenever you want, or feel that it's necessary.

While it may seem like there is a significant difference in gameplay, there really isn't, you are still driving a kart, and you still get items, and you still use them to your advantage. It's exactly like the traditional Mario Kart games we have been used to in the past. The only difference is that you have an extra character in your kart to switch around.

Since each kart now has two characters, there's also the option of choosing different karts for your race. The karts you can choose depend on the heaviest character. If you have Bowser (heavy) and Toad (light) as a team, you will be racing with a heavy kart, which has slow acceleration. If you want a fast starting team, you have to choose two light characters, and you will have the option of choosing a light kart, but you also have the option of choosing the heavier karts as well. Confused? Guess what, you're not alone.

Each character can hold an item, so you can take advantage of the character swapping and use it to build a strategy for the race. As well, each character has its own special item, for example Yoshi has the Yoshi egg, and Bowser has the giant spiked shell. By coordinating the proper combination at the right time, you are able to make up the seconds that count in a race found in this game.

Never has strategy been so significant in a Mario Kart game. If you don't use items properly, it becomes very difficult to win a race. Items are scattered all over the place, you need to be careful you don't slide into a banana peel. But if you look carefully there may be some good things such as mushrooms (speed burst) or stars (invincibility). Whenever your kart is hit, all your items will fall on the track, so that's why there's so much of them on it. Watching for good items on the track, and avoiding the bad apples is another thing that makes getting that checkered flag a pain to do.

Power sliding is also key to winning races. Quite frankly, you better do it properly otherwise you'll find yourself at the back of the pack. By hitting the L or R button when you turn, you are able to smooth turns, which prevents you from losing speed in turns, and you'll see some sparks. At the right time, you'll even see blue sparks giving you a nice speed boost, which again, can give you save you precious seconds. Oh and speaking of speed boost, you better take advantage of zippers, which have made a return, since their disappearance from Mario Kart 64.

With the abundance of items found in Mario Kart: Double Dash, in a way it makes sense to leave out the coins in this game. There's already too much strategy involved in this game already, and it would even harder to win races, if you had to collect coins to speed up your kart.

As expected, MKDD has the one or two player Grand Prix, single player time trial, VS/battle mode (up to 4 players). But, the two player Grand Prix has a feature that lets you race together in one kart, on a full screen. One player handles the driving, and the other handles the items, and the two players can do a switch. This mode adds a little more spice to the game, although at first it may seem somewhat awkward. If you don't like teaming up, there's still the split screen Grand Prix that we all know and love. The VS and battle modes are great if you have a bunch of friends over, it's nice and simple, and most importantly, fun. Mario Kart has always been better as a multiplayer game, always has, and always will be.

Mario Kart: Double Dash also has link play through a LAN by connecting two GameCubes, you can have up to 8 players going at it. Unfortunately, there is no "official" way to play MKDD online, but a website called Warp Pipe has solutions to do this through the LAN.

One mode lacking from the game that I believed Nintendo should have included is a "quick run", similar to the one in Mario Kart: Super Circuit for the Game Boy Advance. In that game, you could choose any race, and go against computer racers. In MKDD, the only way you can race GP style is by playing the entire Cup. The only way to satisfy your three-minute Mario Kart urge on GameCube is to play the time trial, which is not as fun as a real race.

The graphics in Mario Kart: Double Dash seem rather bland compared to other GameCube games. Simple backgrounds and textures are used throughout, and they are not very visually appealing. The visuals found here don't look much better than a N64 game; the character rendering is not very in-depth at all. Nintendo must have forgotten that this is a GameCube game and they should be making the game look nicer. However, throughout the races, the framerate remains very smooth, and feels comfortable during play, and there aren't any camera problems.

Some nice tunes can be found in this game. But once again, it's pretty much what you expect from a Mario game, with all the happy music found throughout the tracks. The music is well synthesized, and really gives a good feel to the races, it sounds even better with surround sound too! The sound effects like the screeching and player voices are nothing spectacular, but do add a bit to the enjoyment of the game.

Despite the flaws, Mario Kart: Double Dash is still a good game to have for your GameCube, it's great to have just for the multiplayer alone. In MKDD, no lead is safe, with the massive numbers of items piled on the racetrack, you just never know what can happen, the events that occur are so random and often. Even if you are well ahead with the finish line approaching, you could instantly lose a few places. In a way, luck is almost as important as skill, but you still have to have both. But even before the race starts, you have to choose the right team to bring you to the finish.

-- Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)

Bottom Line: Mario Kart: Double Dash is a unique racing game which the unexpected is expected, you don't just race... you have to use your brain to take out the opposition.