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Jonzor's Video Game Reviews (41)

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Batman: Arkham Knight 4.5/5
Magicka 4/5
Bravely Default 4/5
Awesomenauts 4/5
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon 4/5
Far Cry 3 4/5
Halo: Combat Evolved An... 4/5
Crysis Warhead 4.5/5
Crysis 4.5/5
Final Fantasy: The 4 He... 1.5/5
The Legend of Zelda: A ... 4.5/5
Borderlands 2 4/5
Final Fight 3/5
Command & Conquer 4: Ti... 1.5/5
Resident Evil: Revelati... 3.5/5
Bastion 4/5
Defense Grid: The Awake... 4.5/5
Borderlands 4/5
Mass Effect 3 4.5/5
Mass Effect 2 4.5/5
Mass Effect 4/5
Batman: Arkham Asylum 4.5/5
Ikaruga 4/5
The Legend of Zelda: Oc... 5/5
Mario Kart: Double Dash... 4.5/5

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Mario Kart: Double Dash!!   GameCube 

Yeah, I said it: Episode VII    4.5/5 stars

I have a confession to make: I didn’t really play a lot of Mario Kart growing up. I mean, I’d played Super Mario Kart, I knew some of the shortcuts, I knew Toad was my character of choice, and I knew I hated Rainbow Road.

Mario Kart 64 featured probably even less prominently in my gaming heritage. I didn’t really play it enough to get the hang of power-sliding (though I think I’ve got it, now...) and I always thought the Battle Mode sounded like a lot of fun, but didn’t exactly have a crew of friends that played it every day after school like some other, luckier people I know. It’s hard to get addicted to Mario Kart by yourself, you know?

Mario Kart: Double Dash came out when I was in college. I lived in the honors dorm for 3 years. That’s 3 years, living with a bunch of 18-20 year olds, like me. Three years, living with a bunch of nerds, like me. You see where I’m going, right?

FINALLY. I finally had a chance to regularly play a lot of Mario Kart with a group of people. I finally had a chance to truly experience Mario Kart in it’s purest form and get in on the craze. And to be honest? It was pretty good. Basically, while it wasn’t my “first” Mario Kart game, Double Dash was easily the most fun I’d had with Mario Kart to date.

And I think I picked the right Mario Kart game to be in college for. Double Dash allowed, in a new twist for the series, a franchise-record of TWO players per kart. You could have Mario and Luigi, in the same kart, vs Bowser and Wario. Or, for those of you brazen enough to spit on decades of Mario canon, you could have Mario and Bowser racing against Birdo and Princess Peach.

But two players per kart was good for more than just a getting a laugh at the pairings you came up with. This spread the responsibility for success around to each character, as each person now had particular roles they had to fulfill during a race. The person in the front was now in charge of basic driving functions like steering, braking, and hitting shoulder buttons for a power-slide. The person in back was in charge of using items, punching jerks (and stealing their items) as you sped past, and wiggling the control stick during power-slides to build the boost. Players could switch roles at any given time with a little simple, coordinated button-pressing, and each character could hold their own item, which could also be swapped.

This came in extremely hand for me, as while I wasn’t the most experienced driver, I’m pretty good at being a jerk. A wider way of looking at this is that just because you don’t play the game much and aren’t that good of a driver, you’re not relegated to just being a good sport while the Mario Kart addicts proceed to just win every race. Two good drivers and two complete newbs can make for a lot of good racing action where everyone is actually relevant to the game. Or perhaps two guys can drive and their girlfriends can actually be gunners instead of driving into walls or just not playing at all, in the event that they aren’t really “into” Mario Kart.

But Double Dash doesn’t just have to be about the cooperation. If you see fit, you can play this as a standard Mario Kart title. One person can easily control a kart on their own and still perform essentially all the functions of a two-player kart. This is largely the beauty of this particular entry in the series. If you’ve got a Mario Kart purist in the room, they’re free to play alone while someone with less experience in the game pairs up with a driver and everyone has a good old time.

The last major change in this game is the inclusion of character-specific items. Yoshi throws a giant egg that shatters, revealing other potentially useful items upon impact. Mario throws a spread of fireballs. Peach deploys a shield that will absorb items that hit it for the player to now use. It actually creates some strategy other than the standard heavy kart = fast but poor handling, light kart = slower but good handling Mario Kart is known for as you choose your racers. Some of the items are WILDLY unbalanced, but hey, if you want the good items you’re free to pick Baby Mario.

A few things didn’t change for Double Dash. Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, Star Cup, Special Cup, 50 cc, 100 cc, 150 cc, Mirror Mode... stop me if you’ve heard all this before. The GP racing is pretty much unchanged from previous entries in the series.

The Battle Mode options did open up a bit. There were two new game types added for Battle Mode: Shine Thief and Bob-omb Blast. Shine Thief is a matter of snagging a shine and then hanging onto it while everyone else chases you down. Bob-omb Blast is a game type I was especially fond of, and dare say I was actually pretty darn good at. It’s a lot like your standard Battle Mode, but all the items have been replaced with bombs. The arenas become absolute chaos, since you can collect an AWFUL lot of bombs and distribute them pretty quickly. As an added feature, if you pull up next to another kart in any of the relevant battle modes, you can steal a balloon by punching the kart as if you were racing in Grand Prix mode. The real disappointment in Battle Mode was the courses themselves. There’s really only two truly “multi-level” battle arenas, the others are flat and uninteresting on the whole, really reducing the amount of strategy that can be used and relegating the play down to who gets the most red shells the fastest.

Then there was the least-utilized-but-still-great feature of Double Dash: the local network play. If you had the GameCube’s broadband adapter (and let’s be honest, who didn’t? Oh, you didn’t? Yeah, me neither...) you could race with a full compliment of karts if you could find the people to play with. Sixteen people spread across up to 8 consoles (each requiring a TV). Good luck organizing that. I was fortunate enough to play a few local games with 2-3 consoles, and I have to admit, it was quite fun. But way too hard to pull together.

The Mario Kart community did have a little something to say about that, thought. A program was released (no thanks to Nintendo) called Warp Pipe that would essentially trick your console into THINKING it was just on a LAN. It actually did make things a LITTLE easier, but since it was entirely a fan project created while Nintendo was trying to convince us that we’d rather just collect 8 TVs in one house, I can’t give the game or Nintendo any credit for it. Just thought you’d like to know.

The LAN functionality of Mario Kart: Double Dash (and the GameCube in general, really) will now just be remembered now as one more grudging concession Nintendo made as it was dragged, kicking and screaming, fighting tooth and nail EVERY STEP OF THE WAY towards thinking that maybe online multiplayer could be a good thing.

The graphics in Double Dash got a serious upgrade from previous versions. My favorite new touch was the karts themselves. A lot of work was put into making the karts fit the personalities of the different racers. The rest of the game looks very “Mario”. Bright, cartoony colors and lots of references to previous games. And Rainbow Road is, as always, quite a psychedelic course to race on.

All in all, I’ll always remember Mario Kart: Double Dash as the first Mario Kart I really, truly “got”. I understood, and really experienced what the game had to offer.

However, I’ll remember it MORE as the game that I haven’t really seen since. Bob-omb Blast mode, co-op karting, character-specific items... all these things seemed like great ideas at the time, and still do. Why Nintendo would turn such great ideas into one-hit wonders is beyond me... and yet some terrible ideas like letting computer players hit you with 4-5 blue shells per race just keep right on trucking through the series.

The new features showcased in Mario Kart: Double Dash deserve more respect than Nintendo has paid them.

Yeah, I said it.

 

 


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