I've been playing quite a bit of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! lately. A game I completely despised from the dawn of man until about three weeks ago. Don't get too excited, though: I'm still not doing backflips over it, I just have a teensy bit more respect for it than I once did.
Why's this, then? I now have regular access to three other humans with which to play it. Yes, shock horror! Mario Kart is better in multiplayer. More specifically, because of a feature that hasn't existed in the franchise before or since: co-op mode.
I'm almost always the gunner in this mode, it enables me to yell at someone else for woeful driving incompetence for a change. It's capable of creating not only teamwork between kartmates, but also a bit of rivalry, depending on the mood.
Nintendo put an admirable amount of thought into making the mechanics interesting in this mode. Two correct boosters in the same team on the starting line equals one mega boost start; the driver initiates and maintains drifts, naturally, but it's the gunner who charges up the mini-turbo (or stubbornly refuses to).
Is your driver about to plough headfirst into the world's biggest banana (the Diddy/DK special mega banana thingy) like a total bell-end? Hit the correct shoulder button to initiate emergency evasive maneuovres, call him a pillock and carry on. Ram nearby opponents off the track/into Toad's mush in the same way, and maybe filch an item in the process.
Fed up of the thankless task of driving, mid-race? Time your presses simultaneously and switch. If the driver's holding a second item, get him or her to pass it back to the gunner. All neat little touches that encourage communication, enough so to make me feel sad that more people don't clamour for such an inclusion in modern Mario Karts. I don't want to see the huge, hideous twin karts again, thank you, but the co-op mechanics could easily be re-implemented. It's not as though MK strives for realism.
One further observation which I find extremely bizarre, is how much prettier this game is than the more recent Mario Kart Wii: everything looks way more colourful and lively. Looking back, they went a bit mad with the soft focus effect in MKWii and everything appears pale and washed out on a flatscreen telly. Not so with Double Dash!!. Character unlocks are less easily-obtained than they are in Mario Kart 8, too, and as a result feel more significant and rewarding as prizes.
In conclusion: I still think the single-player campaign is a flaming pile of arse on the whole. Attempting the All-Cup Tour on your lonesome is as inadvisable as repeatedly thrusting your Manly Bits™ into the mouth of an open fire; the A.I. is rubber-banding defined, and blue shell finish line showdowns are rage-inducingly common, even by Mario Kart's standards. Something which sadly wasn't addressed until much later in the series with Mario Kart 8.
Character combinations are a bit pointless (why pick anyone else other than Koopa+Paratroopa for the shells, or Yoshi+Birdo for the homing eggs?), and the track design is blander than a Coldplay album. Oh, and Daisy can go and jump headfirst into the steaming turd from which she emerged... but the co-op multiplayer - for those who can still experience it - ain't half bad.
That'll do, Peach. That'll do.