December 4, 2003

Mario Kart Double Dash Impressions

First some background. For the better part of my college career, Mario Kart 64 was the video game of choice for my friends and me. Later, this was played in tandem with other favorites, GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, though rather than replacing Mario Kart we would just put in some overtime. Colorful characters, great music, fun gameplay, and perhaps most important, cutthroat multiplayer action made this game an instant favorite. We played so much that a virtual language revolving around gameplay and occurrences developed. “Skiddily-bop to use that right before I northed those shells and freejacked” was not an uncommon thing to hear. What’s worse is we all knew what it meant, and had been there before. The game still holds up to this day.

Here we are now, seven years later. Since interaction with normal society has long since gone out the window, we have been waiting for the follow-up to MK64 with controllers in hand. The time has come for Mario Kart Double Dash.

The game picks up right where its predecessor left off, with some notable exceptions. As the title implies, this time you have two characters to a kart, interchangeable during play with each touting different special attacks. Also, what you would expect, new levels, new characters, and hidden karts and courses.

This time out you can choose 2 characters from 16 potential racers (20 when you unlock the 4 hidden ones). Depending on which racers you throw together, your team is considered either light, medium, or heavy and which then determines the karts you can select from (16 to start, 21 with the hidden ones). All the old favorite characters are here like Mario (yeah I know, duh) and Donkey Kong, as well as some newcomers like the maniacal Waluigi. Add into the mix some new items (mostly of the gigantic lot) like oversized bananas and spiked shells.

The racing mode borrows heavily from MK64 retaining the usual cup setups (Mushroom, Flower, and Star) with the ability to unlock the Special Cup and Mirror Mode (the four cups backward).

Sadly, the battle mode does not borrow as heavily from MK64. The game offers 4 levels to start with and 2 more to be unlocked. Of the initial 4, only one, Pipe Plaza, offers any sort of decent replay value. Added to the mix are 2 new battle modes: Shine-Thief (basically Capture-the-Flag) and Bob-omb Blast (blast your opponent 5 times before he blasts you). After that, it’s all downhill. The worst offense in the game has to be the second battle level, Block City, a smack in the face to the greatest battle level from MK64, Block Fort. Take away the ability to quick spin by holding down A and B, toss in some lifeless arenas and what you have left is a battle mode that is reduced to nothing more than a half-hearted attempt.

Perhaps that is the biggest letdown. MKDD improves heavily on its racing mode and player configurations, sustaining some great repeat gameplay but suffers from a piss-poor showing in the battle department. The new battle modes are a great addition, but essentially useless on levels no one wants to play. Don’t get me wrong, MKDD is a damn fun game, but we are hardcore nerds here. So it’s deeply saddening when MKDD takes two steps backwards for every one forward. This was the last reason I kept hanging onto my GameCube. The next system I buy will surely be a PlayStation. But for now, MKDD will have to be the long-awaited last hurrah.

Commentary (3):

1. Kevin Cornell says… dec 4, 2003 | 8:48 am

Can I have your gamecube?

2. ROb Weychert says… dec 8, 2003 | 4:56 pm

At least your good buddy Boosh is still alive and well and at your service.

3. jane says… dec 17, 2003 | 8:19 am

can i come over and play mario kart?