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    EX's Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GC)

    [January 12, 2007 02:55:44 PM]
    After further play and review of the Double Dash, I found a few more subtle things to note about the game. The first was the audio (music/sound effects). The music nicely complements the cheerful, child-friendly 'happy' theme of the game which is well accomplished in the graphical style. However, after playing through the full-cup tournament (16 races from the 4 cups), I realized exactly how repetetive the music feels, despite there being different soundtracks. A wider variety of music might have made it more enjoyable. To play, rather than turning on other music to listen to while playing.
    Along the lines of theme, I developed an appreciation for how well the the levels are designed. The obstacles and item placement greatly add to the complexity, challenege, making it more than just a simple racing game. The 100cc and 150cc (and mirror) add more obstacles and increase the speed of the race, making it even more challenging, particularly with the mirror mode, which forces to literally look at the courses in a new way. I did not really notice how well the obstacles were implemented previously because they thematically fit so well into the course that it seems only natural that they be there; take for example the obstacles suchas the falling blocks and jumping lava balls in bowser's castle and the moving cactus-balls and sand-pits in the Dry Dry Desert are game elements drawn from some of the earliest classic NES games that have persisted in what could be called "Nintendo Culture")

    I also made several interesting 'discoveries' about the co-op play mode which make it a bit more interesting. When both players hit the accelerator (A button) right as the race starts, you get a super boost instead of the regular boost which you get when only the driver presses the accelerator. Further more, the slide-attack for the person in back, although useful for making opponents 'within melee range' to spin-out, I found the effect it has on steering--particularly when powersliding--to be very irritating. Oh, and switching places while driving around corners is not a good idea... While the co-op mode provides its advantages, it emphasizes the inherent inability for (most, probably) players to simultaneously strategize and play in a complementary way. Thus, as co-op mode did generate much frustration, the fact that it proved to be challenge to try and play cooperatively with another person than trash-talk and beat them. However, the co-op play ultimately proved to be not as exciting and fun as I hoped it would be, simply because it lacks the competetive nature that the vs. play draws out.

    Overall, my analysis of this game has given me an number of things to think about regarding game design, notably music thematics vs. repetitiveness, co-op play vs. versus play, and thematic level design.
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    [January 12, 2007 05:55:28 AM]
    I've been playing Mario Kart: Double Dash on and off since last quarter on one of my apartment-mate's Gamecube, typically competetively, so I decided to pick it back up and play some more to analyze it more in-depth.

    As far as racing games go, the graphics are good, and well adjusted to the comic Nintendo style of 3D adaptation of old NES game characters, nicely setting the tone/mood of the game as light and fun, yet competitive, and the innovative features add some interesting twists to the gameplay experience--namely the co-op play (hence the title name). While an interesting idea to play with, the co-op play is very chaotic and challenging; while items can be employed more effectively/strategically (ex: it's kind of hard, although not impossible, to take out homing shells/eggs following you while driving), you can't really directly control your partner's action directly, placing you at a disadvantage at the same time (i.e. you can't immediately activate a mushroom/boost right whe you need it). Never-the-less, it was rather fun and interesting to play with.

    The variable speed (difficulty?) modes 50,100, and 150cc and then mirror (150cc but everything mirrored left-right) presented a challenge, allowing for a relaxed learning curve for new and casual players while also offering a challenge for more experience/skilled players. As of now, I can take the gold 90% of the time in 100cc, but 150cc and mirror is still rather difficult... only 50-60% of the time do I manage to finish in the top 3 when playing agsint the computer.

    Along the lines of multi-player play, I had a lot of fun racing against my apartment mates and with the battle-mode mini-games, especially Bob-omb Blast in which we would hoard bombs and then go on bombing sprees against each other. I was rather disappointed however that there are only 4 maps available for the battle-mode games, since each round feels so short to play.

    On to the mechanics of game-play... The car (or car-like thing... o_0') selection is fairly typical of racing games, although in multi-player races, I was disappointed that it does not show the vehicle statistics during vehicle selection (it only displays them for single-player games) which was a drag since most of my apartment mates play the game as a social activity, not bothering to play or practice in single-player.

    While experimenting with different vehicles, which had the typical range from light-weight (high acceleration but low top-speed) to heavy-weight (high top-speed and low acceleration), I found that certain car types performed significantly better or worse on certain courses (ie. the light-weight go-cart was very effective on more technical courses such as Bowser's Castle and Wario Colloseum and relatively poorly on courses with long straight-ways such as Waluigi Stadium and Mario Circuit. Of course, this isn't unexpected, but the results change entirely when racing in Grand-prix mode (Computer fills empty slots so a total of 8 racers are on the track). While the light-weight cars could excel in cornering, I found that it was only easy to win with light-weight vehicles if I stayed in front and key a massive lead the entire way--the high acceleration enabled fast recovery from any shells etc. coming from behind; however, the trick was trying to get past the mass of opponents, because the low weight of the car made it easily get knocked around, and once knocked back, it was difficult to gain ground with the low top-speed . On the extreme opposite, heavy-weight cars could easily knock-away other cars, but when hit repeatedly by a flurry of shells etc. (as I love to do with the Paratroopa/Koopa triple homing shell special) is rendered as pretty-much out of the race because the acceleration speed makes recovery extremely difficult; thus, unless you're either very lucky or have awesome countering skills, keeping first place, especially on technical courses is downright hard, if not impossible at the 150cc. In this regard, I think the game balance is a bit off, particularly since power-sliding, which is vital for skilled players, allows retention of vehicle speed while turning, rendering the light-weight car's acceleration rate practically useless so-long as the heavy-weight car doesn't spin out. However, when I compared the regular cars to special unlockable cars such as the Parad Kart, I found there to be little reason to go back because the over-powered stats made it an obvious choice as being all-around superior and having a better chance at winning, seeing that luck tends to play in as a big factor in addition to skill. (ex: on some races, I got nothing but bananas when I really needed something--anything really--other than bananas... while on other races I got just the right items that I needed to pull off an incredible last-minute win)

    All-in-all, I'd say as far as racing games go, Mario Kart: Double Dash is a bit more intriguing than say a more realistic simulation-based racing game such as the Test Drive series because of the features it offers, but lacks the depth of game-world sophistication of a back-story or storyline--but then again that's probably just the genre or my narrow opinion of it. I wouldn't really see much point in playing much more single-player beyond unlocking all of the unlockables or practicing so I can beat my friends in multiplayer because the game structure provides little more enjoyment (in my opinion) other than those two aspects. I will probably continue to pick it up and play it occasionally in the future, but not very often, seeing how there are many more interesting games out there.
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    EX's Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GC)

    Current Status: Playing

    GameLog started on: Friday 12 January, 2007

    EX's opinion and rating for this game

    An intriguing racing game with a few innovative touches, but otherwise uninspired. Good for playing with your friends if you have it, both casual and skilled-gamers, although I would not recommend it for much other than that.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstar

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