Racing games don't usually lend themselves well to co-op. That isn't to say that a good co-op experience is impossible in a racer; Burnout Paradise is one example that comes to mind. However, it still leaves a lot to be desired. One entry into the Mario Kart series featured one of the truest types of co-op I know of in any similar game. Today, we'll discuss the co-op in the appropriately named Mario Kart Double Dash!!
Mario Kart is easily one of the better racing series in gaming history. From its roots on the venerable SNES to an excellent portable version for the DS, to the latest version, featuring a casual friendly Wii Wheel control scheme, you can pretty much count on a Mario Kart game being good, perhaps even great. My own first experience with Mario Kart was on the Nintendo 64, and it was one of our favorite games for that system. Mario Kart for theGBA was a winner too, since you could race each other with only one copy of the game, provided you had the right cables. (Wireless connections have certainly spoiled modern gamers!)
In my mind, though, the best Mario Kart was the Gamecube version, Double Dash!! The game came out right in the heyday of the Gamecube, though I suppose some would debate whether that console had a heyday. Double Dash!! was easily better than it's N64 predecessor, and that is saying quite a bit. The zippy, frantic speeds were dizzying. The environments were full of color, character, and charm. In most respects, Double Dash!! was the typical well done sequel: it took the best parts of the previous games, added in some new features, and of course took the graphics up a notch as well.
However, the biggest change, and the one most appealing to co-op fans, was the addition of the two seater karts. One player got to drive the kart, and the other, sitting behind, was in charge of all the items. In addition, the second player could attack opposing karts if they got too close. This was a serious change to thegameplay . Mario Kart games are known for their fast pace, and standings can change in an instant if you hesitate for even a second. Being able to split the responsibilities between two people made the game far less frustrating, in my opinion. The driver could handle all the turns, take all the short cuts, and always hit the power ups. The passenger could coordinate the item use with the driver, and whack other racers if they got too close. The co-op in Mario Kart Double Dash!! is about as good a racing game gets.
That's not to say the co-op is perfect, though. Experienced gamers will likely bore easily of the two seater experience. For the driver, losing the item use makes laps a bit repetitive. Much of the time, the passenger has little to do, as well. It's a bit of a two edged sword; the division of the full experience makes the game more accessible, yet a bit too easy for Mario Kart veterans. Probably the best way to enjoy the two player co-op racing is to have gamers drive while non-gamers control the items. In our family, my wife and my youngest son, who was not even in school when we got the game, really enjoyed being the passenger.
Mario Kart Double Dash!! is certainly the most unique title in the series. Longtime fans of Mario Kart might be put off by the changes, due to the "dumbing down" of the experience. I think the addition of the twoseater karts was a good move; cooperation between players and appeal to more casual fans are two big pluses for me. The best part about Double Dash!! is that it is totally compatible with theWii. If you can live without the online matches, and the Wiimote based control scheme of Mario Kart Wii, track down a copy of Double Dash!! Your co-op partners will thank you for it.