Mario Kart: Double Dash
It's Mario Kart tag-team style, with one character behind the wheel and the second chucking turtle shells, banana peels, and whatever else comes along courtesy of those spinning, question-marked power-up containers. You can switch drivers right on the fly, and since both characters can hold an item, there's a whole new layer of depth to the combatracing metagame we all know and...sniff...love.
HOW WAS IT?
Very good, thanks, especially when hooked up to other Cubes for LAN play (you can connect up to eight systems via broadband adapters and hubs). After selecting a pair of racers (there are 16 total), you pick one of three karts. In the version I played, some karts are available only to certain characters, and all have somewhat different handling. Aside from the usual roster of power-ups from earlier Mario Kart games, there are character-specific special items like an enormous Chain Chomp, which is perfect for clearing the road ahead. As for the racing, it was a little slower than expected-- even in the 150cc class--although that could be because the brief time I had on the stick wasn't enough to figure out how to get a boost using the powerslide. There's gotta be a way.
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It's me Mario. OK, not really, but I've got that bizarre phrase going through my head Ad Nauseam in a really bad Italian accent thanks to hours of time sitting in front of Nintendo's latest addictive game - Mario Kart Double Dash. Like those that came before it, Double Dash is a fun little racing game chock-full of tons of Nintendo trademark creativity and fun.
In the game you drive one of 21 stock go-carts as one of the colorful characters from a plethora of Nintendo classic games as you race and bash your way around colorful and fanciful tracks. Although Double Dash is heads above the original Mario Kart, fully utilizing the GameCube's graphics and audio muscle power, it doesn't really bring a lot of change to the venerable racer. But no change isn't always a bad thing.
The game still has you sliding around well-constructed tracks trying to out pace the likes of Donkey Kong and Wario. Control is still very tight in the game, with some, like the sliding turn, receiving a major overhaul to make racing a lot smoother.
The other major addition to Double Dash is the inclusion of a second character on each cart. When you start a game you get to pick two characters with which to race. Each one has their own special power-ups, activated when you pick up power-up cubes during a race. This also means that you can now hold two power-ups at a time. The way this works is that one character drives while the other hangs onto the back tossing things at your opponents with the push of a button. The extra character can also steal items when you start smacking into each other in a race. When you push the Z button, or what I like to call the mini shoulder, your characters switch places.
The tracks in Double Dash are just as fun as the original, going far to capture the essence of Nintendo play with colorful fully animated backgrounds that can actually reach out and grab you when you race by. Each of the maps are themed around a different character in the game, my favorite is the Daisy Cruiser which has you racing through a cruise ship dodging coasting table and inviting swimming pools as you try to beat out your opponent.
Unfortunately it won't be long until you've burned through all of the single player levels and you turn to the multiplayer mode to fill your time. Multiplayer is fun, but should have been a lot more fun. You can play against or with friends in Double Dash. When you play cooperatively you and a friend take one cart with one of you driving and the other attacking opponents. If both of you hit the Z at the same time you switch positions. Although this is fun, it isn't very rewarding for the non-driving player. The competitive multiplayer is a bit more fun, but playing on a split or quad-split screen is just distracting and while the game supports multiple GameCube's it does it in such a mediocre way it's almost more annoying than fun.
I know I've tended to grumble a bit about the shelf life of Double Dash, but that's just because I like it so very much and wish there was more to do once I made it through the 16 tracks. Buy this game, enjoy it and then sell it for the latest and greatest from the Big N.
I don't care whether you're 12 or 42, the day you get Mario Kart: Double Dash!! will feel like Christmas morning--pure, exhilarating glee will envelop your soul, demanding that you keep playing 'just one more game' into the wee hours of the morning. It's that good. On the surface, the Mario Kart formula hasn't changed much. Anyone who's played one of the previous incarnations will immediately know what's up with item boxes, power slides, boost pads, and the like. What really alters the game's strategy is far more subtle: Selecting your characters and kart really matters. In previous games, you knew that a kart driven by a pipsqueak like Toad would handle differently than one manned by Bowser, but now, the pilot/gunner setup exponentially ups the variety. With light, medium, and heavy characters and karts to mix and match, you'll have a blast experimenting with the vast possibilities. But I digress...just go ahead and stick, say, Koopa Paratroopa and Baby Luigi in a kickass baby carriage and hit the track. First, you'll notice the smooth, vibrant visuals. These imaginative courses don't exactly upstage the detailed worlds of Metroid Prime, but they adhere nicely to the Mario aesthetic. Course design runs the gamut from deceptively simple (the NASCAR-like simplicity of Baby Park) to the wonderfully insane (try racing through Daisy Cruiser, a tilting cruise ship, or rocketing down the no-rails cliffs of DK Mountain)--every track offers intense thrills. Of course, you'll also slip right into the silky, responsive controls. Everything simply feels flawless, from the tricky-to-time starting boost to the crucial power slides. Gameplay this instinctive, fun, and balanced is tough to find. Speaking of balance, the difficulty level offers newbies and vets alike a sizable challenge. Racing in the pedestrian 50cc mode will help break you in, but once you jump to the faster, tougher 100cc and 150cc classes, prepare for serious competition. Unlike Mario Kart 64 lame A.I. opponents (who blatantly cheated to keep pace), the enemy drivers here earn their competitive nature through deft power slides, smart item usage, and some nasty fisticuffs. Luckily, you're suitably rewarded for triumphing in the single-player game--unlockable characters, courses, karts, and modes abound. Man, I haven't even gushed about the spectacular multiplayer action yet.. .so I'll leave that to my fellow reviewers. I really can't say enough good things about Double Dash!!--it's an instant purchase, undoubtedly one of the most fun gaming experiences you'll have this year, next year, and the year after that....
For me, Mario Kart 64 stands as one of the greatest multiplayer games of all time. It's the one N64 game I still go back to regularly, and it's the game I've seen the most nongamers play (well, minus Ms. Pac-Man and Tetris). And as high as my expectations were for the GC entry to the series, I am astonished at how amazing Double Dash!! is. Shane already filled you in on the incredible single-player stuff and wealth of unlockables, so I'll get right to the good stuff. Like its predecessor, racing in the Grand Prix and Versus modes with some buddies is multiplayer nirvana, with lead changes and last-second victories galore. Players who master the power slide (which is now easier to execute) have the advantage, although the new character-specific weapons help even the field. The secondary Battle modes are all solid diversions (see sidebar), but the new co-op play steals the crown. With one player driving, the other controlling items, and both synchronizing on power slides, you have an incredibly satisfying team dynamic you just don't see that often. Yeah, I miss Mario Kart 64's hop and item-dragging abilities, and Double Dash!! begs for online play, but when seven hours of playtime feel like one, you know you're experiencing an exceptional game. I don't know if I'll still be playing Double Dash!! six years from now, but I wouldn't be too surprised if I were.
The wacky hijinks of Mario Kart have always appealed to me much more than the teeth-grinding speed and frequent, fiery deaths of Nintendo's other big racing franchise, F-Zero. And this latest version of Kart further cements the reasons why I'd rather be tossing bananas on the Sherbet Land track: Double Dash!! is nonstop, relentless fun, and I can't think of a better (or more accessible) game to play with a group of friends. Nintendo sometimes errs on the side of caution when it comes to updating classic franchises like this, and I was worried that Double Dash!! would just be a prettier version of Mario Kart 64. It's much more than that (although I do wish for still more Battle modes and arenas). With two characters per kart--each able to hold an item--there's a whole new layer to the power-up metagame. Playing co-op is even better; with a skilled partner, you can pull off power slide boosts much, much faster, and post significantly quicker lap times than if you're driving solo. Individual karts have subtle handling differences, too, even within the same weight class. While none of these changes are revolutionary by any stretch, they do put a new twist on the time-tested Kart formula, making for even more frantic multiplayer action...and even more ways for Shane to lose.