Wherein unreasonably free time is dedicated to proving Jonah Hill is funnier than you.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mario Kart Double Dash

What it Is:

Why I Wanted to Play it: I loved Mario Kart for SNES, the N64, and the DS. Double Dash itself is #48 on Metacritic's list of all-time top Gamecube discs, making it the fourth best-received racing game on the third most popular no-longer-next-gen system. Mostly, though, I'm a ヨッシ fan, and he's not in SSX3.

Why I Hadn't Played it: Console video games and failing college don't mix.

Why I Just Did: On Tuesday I bought MLB 2k7 for DS, because I'm a statistics wonk and baseball is just numbers. Unfortunately, 2k7 is the worst video game I have ever played in my life; it's like a throwback to the pre-Tecmo Super Bowl technology when you couldn't save any games, except it completely lacks any of the compensatory charm of the era. To cleanse my gaming palette, I fired up Mario Kart DS to remind myself that DS games *can* look good, only to remember I recently bought a better, brighter version of it in the form of Double Dash.[1]

Why I'm Glad I Did: While I've seen what better hardware can do for Nintendo characters in the trailers for Smash Bros Brawl, the Gamecube is more than adept at handling the cartoony-aesthetic of Nintendo mascots. A realistic Mario falls squarely into the Uncanny Valley anyway.[2]

Double Dash still dazzles with course design. No course better emphasizes this than DK Mountain, a jungle track with guard rail-less turns, avalanches, and teetering rope bridge right before the finish line. Of all its features, however, none is more satisfying than the giant barrel — visible in the embedded video — which catapaults you over a chasm and onto an anthropomorphic volcano. If it wasn't so difficult, it would be adorable, which leads us to the cons[3].

Why I Wish I Hadn't: Despite having beaten all the Mario Kart games — save the Game Boy iteration — I haven't even unlocked any new courses on Double Dash. That same variety which would make racing against humans so thrilling becomes heartbreaking when I'm seconds away from Mario Circuit's Finish Line and Pirahna Plant jumps at me, allowing the randomly chosen Best Computer Character to pass me.

Granted, Double Dash isn't a racing sim, but most courses are ludicrously non-racing-friendly. I would rather have another Baby Park — seven laps around a simple elliptical track — than be frozen by one more obnoxiously oversized Slipice. Of the 12 original tracks, I only like three: Baby Park, Toad-Circuit-on-Steroids Mushroom City, and the ヨッシ-shaped Yoshi Circuit.

Don't even get me started on the whole "double" angle of the game engine. I'm grateful all my favorite tracks from Double Dash are included on the DS game (which somehow packs in twice as many tracks the GCN disc), sans the two-characers-per-car feature.

[1] One of the first things I did once I became gainfully employed was buy a Wii, and one of the first things I did after getting a Wii was buy a bunch of GCN discs. I now have three GCN discs for ever Wii one I have. This may turn into a ludology blog and fast.
[2] Don't worry; these are not pictures of Bob Hoskins
[3] And I don't mean no Noonien Singh