i know it’s not just me and that it must be more than a coincidence that after playing through twilight princess for the first time recently and coming away feeling it was just too similar to its predecessors i felt pretty much the same way about the gamecube iteration of mario kart, entitled mario kart: double dash!! (to be uselessly exact, of course i had to actually get the version with the bonus disc of extras which includes demos but more importantly some items to transfer over to the first GBA fire emblem game (fe-online.co.uk has a run-down on exactly what items are available)).
anyway, of the reviews i’ve read of double dash the one i most agree with is the one at ign by fran mirabella. although the dual-drivers element adds more strategy to the game and although so much of the game improves upon its predecessor, there’s just not enough that feels really new. again, it feels odd to find myself saying that since the dual drivers, expanded cast (some of whom bring some new weapons into the fray) and carts, and drifting add a lot of fun, but too many of the tracks feel like tweaks of ones from MK64 and there’s just not enough of that ever-elusive “wow” factor. i’ll have to replay mk64 to refresh my memory of those tracks, but a noticeable difference in this game is the increase in items. the racetrack gets to be so littered with them that they increase the randomness of winning a race, making the game come even more dangerously close to the edge of frustration instead of fun that the previous game was already close to breaching. i wasn’t a fan of not being able to replay a course if you do badly, but it didn’t make the game overly difficult, and i didn’t have any problems with the character-specific items brought back from the original SNES game. the AI also doesn’t feel too cheap overall, and as with previous iterations you’ll definitely need more than luck to come out on top. the all cup mode, in which you progress through all 16 courses, seems quite unnecessary, but i worked my way through it and it also turned out to be somewhat fun. people seem to debate the difficulty of the game compared to other games in the series, and overall it did seem more difficult than what i remember of mk64 although not too hard using the koopa troopa bros. with their triple-red-shell attacks, although i found most of the other character-specific weapons to be pretty useless. it was nice to see lesser characters in the mario universe make their mario kart debuts, including waluigi, daisy, and birdo, and let’s not forget that this was the first game ever to feature the lovely toadette.
so, all in all, another enjoyable sequel, but one that left me wanting just a bit more. the DS and wii versions seem to be preferred over this one, although i’ve been thinking i should go back and play the GBA version since tracks from it are featured among the retro cups in the newer entries of the series. of racing games i’m still enjoying this series more than most and am still appreciating the good side of the item system (better items given to players further behind) as it’s a great way to help you recover from a mistake or two. looking forward to playing the DS and wii editions, and hopefully the GBA version will feel more like the N64 version and not so much like the SNES one.