The Nintendo 64 version of Mario Kart was very popular and successful, so naturally the GameCube version was greatly anticipated by many fans of the series. Making its first debut at E3 2001, the Mario Kart games have always been know for the multiplayer modes and crazy tracks that are unlike any conventional racing game.
The game features all the classic stars including: Mario, Luigi, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Bowser, Bowser Jr., Wario, Waligi, Peach, Birdo, Yoishi, Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Koopa, and Paratrooper; each of which has their own special item they can collect on the tracks. The game play is very simplistic. There are two characters per kart: one drives and the other throws items. If you have 2 players, you can verse each other on two different karts or team up to a single kart. What characters and what type of kart you choose will determine if your kart is classified as light, medium, or heavy. A light kart has good acceleration and poor top speeds, while a heavy kart has poor acceleration and great top speeds.
The controls in the game are matched up with the simple game play very well. For a single player game the L/R buttons are used to drift or slide when taking those tough turns on the track. You control two characters on the kart and use the Z button to switch between them. The A button is used to accelerate, the B button is used as the brake, and the control stick is used to turn. You use the X/Y buttons to actually throw the items and the control stick (pushed up and down) to throw the item either forward or backwards. Co-op play is very similar to the single play controls, but in order to switch, both players must hit the Z button simultaneously. All of the controls are near perfect and feel natural during game play. The game’s control scheme takes full advantage of the GameCube controller.
There are 4 main game modes in Mario Kart: Grand Prix, Time Trials, Versus, and Battle. Grand Prix is the heart of this game. It has eight karts that race through four courses to gain points. There are also 3 cups you can choose from in the Grand Prix mode. Mushroom Cup is the easiest mode and is designed for beginners. The Flower Cup is more difficult and is designed for intermediate players. The Star Cup is the hardest cup and is for expert players. The amount of points you win will determine what trophy you get. First place receives a gold trophy, second receives silver, and third receives bronze. Versus mode has no computer controlled karts, only human players. 2-4 players race and battle it out on the tracks. Battle mode includes all of those wacky mini-games you can play and is also only for human-controlled karts. There are three type of battles: Balloon Battle, Shine Thief, and Bob-omb Blast. The battle modes are great if you have more than 2 players and add some extra fun.
Most people would normally play with the standard 2-4 players, which is more than enough for me. But Nintendo included another little extra: LAN support. If you own Broadband Adapters, a hub, and a LAN cable you can set up a LAN system, so each player can play on their own television. This system can support up to 8 players. I personally have never tried this out and I don’t really plan to. It’s impractical and inconvenient, but it adds a cool option for those hardcore fans.
The visuals are the standard graphics you see in almost every Mario spin-off game. Even though we’ve seen them before they’re always very clean and smooth. The load times are fast and there are no big problems to disrupt you from enjoying the game. The environments are fairly detailed, truly colourful, and are full of surprises. The music is nothing exciting and is easily forgettable. The standard tunes don’t bother me, but they don’t impress me much either. The sounds are amusing and very cool. The game delivers a high-quality experience that can last for hours.
The game is not realistic, but it’s very stylish – it has fun written all over it. Fans of the series and newcomers, such as myself, should all give Mario Kart: Double Dash a test run. It doesn’t have deep, in-depth gameplay, but it’s fun for all ages. It’s tremendously addictive, well balanced, and challenging. If you’re new to Mario and Nintendo it would be wise to rent it first and give it a spin. This game doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but it’s still pure entertainment.