Mario Kart Double Dash!! – GameCube
Platform: Nintendo GameCube
Release Date (NA): November 17th, 2003
Rating: 7 out of 10
Mario Kart Double Dash is the fourth installment in the series and to me feels like the first “modern” Mario Kart. True to its name, this is the first and so far only Mario Kart to include a duo of riders in each vehicle. The default pairings are all pretty obvious but the player is always free to pair up any two riders. Some of the most beloved and well recognized courses make their first appearance in Double Dash, including Peach Beach and the Baby Park (a mayhem filled 7 lap circle!). A noticeable shift in game mechanics from the first 3 entries occurs with much smoother steering and an overall increased level of stability and vehicle control.
While Double Dash might not seem so special pitted against newer titles for the Wii and 3DS, it deserves major credit for essentially becoming the foundation of future titles. The graphics are greatly improved upon with softer edges, smoother animations, and more detailed backgrounds. The weapons systems have also seen a bit of an upgrade. All the old favorites are included plus a few new ones, and now each default character pair has a special, exclusive weapon. Not all of the exclusives are created equally; some are much more useful than others but a player’s skill level and racing/combat style factor in as well. For example, the Yoshi-Birdo egg acts as a powerful homing projectile while the Wario-Waluigi bomb merely explodes when thrown, often missing an opponent since the car will be gone from the spot the bomb is thrown to by the time the bomb lands, and if thrown in front quite often Wario-Waluigi are the ones caught in the blast. Peach and Daisy’s powerup manifests as floating hearts, both absorbing incoming blasts and possessing the ability to steal an item from a close enough opponent. Clearly the second ability isn’t much use for a player who spends most of their time near the front, but it would be a perfect tool for those middle of the pack racers. If a player chooses to select 2 characters from different default pairs, the special powerups of each will be available, depending on who’s riding and who’s driving. This is an excellent way to make use of some the game’s more powerful weapons.
The most obvious new feature of Double Dash is having two riders at once and being able to switch places with them with a press of the button. This has little to no effect on racing itself but it can play a semi-important role in combat. Double powerups are peppered throughout the courses allowing both the driver and rider to gain a powerup. Once the rider’s is used, the two can be switched with another item ready to be used. Younger children and obsessive Mario fans will be enthralled by this feature, and while I do think the idea is cool, the impact on gaming is rather negligible and usually I forget about it altogether. I guess that’s why Nintendo failed to double up on racers in any subsequent Mario Karts.
Apart from the normal Grand Prix mode, Double Dash offers 2 additional ways to play. Versus enables 2 to 4 human players to race around a course but with just 4 cars on the track much of the fun is sucked out. Why 2 players can race against a slew of computer controlled opponents but 3 or more cannot is a major oversight by Nintendo, leaving one to probably select an entirely different Mario Kart for some multiplayer madness. Battle Mode fares a little better. Four different types of battles can be played and all revolve around both racing and combat skills within a confined area. In one area each racer has 3 balloons and a balloon pops after each hit. Last one standing wins. In another course the racers attempt to grab a shine sprite (from Super Mario Sunshine) and hold on to it for as long as possible. These games can be fun at first, but unless those playing are of roughly equal skill the divisions between playing ability widen very quickly and either player(s) will tire of either winning or losing.
With only a handful of courses, one main mode of play, and little discernible differences in performance between different vehicles (despite the star ratings), sessions of playing Double Dash are likely to be short. There also isn’t much to see or do after going through all the circuits (well, except for time trials) making this a title that may sit on the shelf for long periods of time. It’s a fun game but there isn’t enough room for variation to maintain its freshness. Respectable in its own right for delivering much better game play than its predecessors, anyone used to Mario Kart Wii or 7 will probably view Double Dash as a bit redundant. Were the game expanded upon, especially regarding modes of play, Double Dash may have found itself amongst other giants of the past, but it some ways it feels like an incomplete game, or even a secondary game inside of a larger one.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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