As the original power-up-loaded go-kart racer, Mario Kart can hardly be called a derivative, cash-grabbing franchise. Well, that used to be the case, anyway - Double Dash!! pretty much offers just one new thing for us to scream about, and that's the ability to control two drivers on one extra-long kart.
For the first time, you can choose, say, Mario and Luigi simultaneously, and swap between them mid-race. Mario drives while his bro acts as a gunner, tossing turtle shells and slipping banana peels on the track. The trick is finding a good balance of characters to put in these extra-long, pimped-out karts. Too bad the player combinations rarely, if ever, affect your ability to race.
While the karts may handle similarly - some are slow with a high top speed, others accelerate quickly but aren't speedsters, and so on, but the differences are actually minor - each character's special weapon is what makes or breaks the race. Yoshi and the suspiciously gendered Birdo both toss homing eggs that explode into useful items, Wario and Waluigi have a massive bomb to leave behind and Bowser can shoot a spiky shell that plows through everything. These are just a few examples of what you're gonna have to put up with on the Mario Kart circuit.
And that's the true advantage of Double Dash!! - its unrelenting action. Some of these new shortcut-laden courses are designed so tightly that there's just no way to keep your lead. Soon enough, you're barreling down the stairs of a cruise ship or power sliding through Donkey Kong's dense jungle brush - all areas that you'll see in some fashion in other kart games, but rarely crafted so clearly as in Mario Kart.
As the fourth game in the series, you'd kind of expect more, well, newness. And even though the added driver technique is the only major change, it does manage to rework the way you play. The same types of power-ups are hanging around the colorful Mushroom Kingdom courses, but now you can hold more of them at once (thanks to the extra friend). So now there's a little bit of item management built in, but never forget that your lead is always in jeopardy.
While blasting around a corner, four karts on your tail, dirt and sand flying everywhere, you see Baby Mario soar past with a giant cannonball with teeth chained to his kart. Anything in its path is flung into the sky. You just went from first place to fifth. Now sixth. Seventh. The power-ups do make things interesting but can cost you the race, even though you were ripping through in first the whole time. It’s just a matter of adjusting to a constantly rotating queue of item-launching competitors.
On its own, Dash!! is the easiest solo game in the franchise. Vets will be able to blast this game apart in a weekend or so, but that's where the multiplayer comes in. By using the broadband adapter (yes, one does exist) you can connect some GameCubes together for an 8-player, tag-team match. One of you is the driver, one is the gunner, and all Hell breaks loose in what was already the king of party games. But odds are you don't have that adapter. Well, there's always 4-player battle mode.