If frantic, frenzied non-threatening racing hi-jinks are the order of the day for yourself and some friends, look no further than Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. As a party game there isn’t much better on the GameCube, but as a single player experience?
Read on, dear kart enthusiast. I do hope you are one. Otherwise, why even click the review link?
Double Dash!! offers the same gameplay we’ve seen and loved, or loved to hate from generations back on the SNES, and later on the N64. You’re given a cast of characters straight from the pages of Mario lore to use in no-holds-barred, pedal-to-the-medal…go-kart racing. All right, the premise doesn’t sound too gripping but it’s a formula that has been addicting for over a decade and continues to succeed even in today’s day and age.
Forget about finesse, honor or style – it’s all about frantic, down-and-dirty kart combat. Jockeying for position depends on how well you handle corners; in many cases what heat you're packing matters more. To help unleash terror, you’re given a bevy of shells, banana peels and power-ups to choose from – mostly standard fare for anyone who’s played a Mario Kart title before.
A sprinkle of old and new elements appears to be Nintendo's formula this time around. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces, track locations and items but all in glorious 128-bit Technicolor fun. Not to mention some new tracks that go beyond the realm of fantastic, like DK Mountain and its insane ‘cannonball run’ up the crag – you have to see it to believe it. Yet the newest addition to the franchise formula is the partner aspect. Not only do you have to deal with choosing a driver and kart from the onset, but a partner that sits in tow distributing weapons to the opposition.
What’s especially fun about the buddy aspect is that doubles your munitions – one character can drive and hold weapons in standby (they literally juggle the jobs), while the other plays active attacker. Then there’s the 2-player co-op mode which places both people into one cart, coordinating a deft ballet of switch, fight and drive. To be honest it feels like the game was built for this mode alone, since the transitions from fighting to driving is flawless between a well-trained team.
This only underscores the fact that Double Dash!! was built with multiplayer in mind – how else could the one-player experience be so much more with a human duo at the helm? Then there are the obligatory 4-player modes of racing, battle, and a Shine version of capture-the-flag to round off the list. If the party aspect doesn’t grab your immediate interest though, you may be in for a letdown. As frantic and fun as it gets, sometimes the game can be downright unfair when it comes to the CPU. Meaning a lot of frustration in the one-player circuits; and once all is said and done with all the tracks open and racers unlocked, there’s very little incentive to go it alone.
As it stands Double Dash!! is an honorable addition to the Mario Kart family, if not the strongest of the bunch. A must have for any GameCube owner with a few friends…not a hard concept at all in this day and age.