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Diddy Kong Racing

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Reviewed by Raymond Almeda At first glance, Diddy Kong Racing might appear to be a simple clone of Mario Kart 64. But without a doubt, DKR goes far beyond Mario Kart to provide a unique experience all its own. Combining superb visuals, outstanding audio, and addictive gameplay, Diddy Kong Racing is a premiere Nintendo 64 title. Clocking in at a massive 128 megabits, Diddy Kong Racing is the largest N64 title to date, and ranks among the most impressive. Diddy Kong Racing is touted as a "racing adventure" game. In other words, adventure-style gameplay of searching for hidden items and power-ups plays a significant role in Diddy Kong Racing. The game plays like a strange hybrid between Super Mario, Mario Kart, Wave Race, with a dash of Pilotwings for good measure. Instead of immediately jumping into the racing tracks, gamers must explore Diddy Kong's world in order to first find the tracks. Winning a race on one track will allow gamers to access other tracks. Beating all the tracks in a level will bring about a race against a boss character. In Diddy Kong Racing there are three vehicles to choose from: a kart, a hovercraft, and a plane. Naturally, each vehicle is used to race in different environments, and each requires its own handling techniques. Not only are there these different vehicles, but it is possible to simultaneously race them against one another. One player may be in a plane, for example, while his opponent is on the ground in a kart. The different vehicles provide a lot of great gameplay variety that simply doesn't exist in Mario Kart 64. As in Mario Kart 64, there are plenty of weapons and power-ups along the courses. Although the objects may look familiar, they play a different role in Diddy Kong Racing. Banana peels, for example, are not weapons; they are collected to add speed to one's vehicle. There are also colored balloons throughout Diddy Kong Racing; the different balloons provide different power- ups. Collecting balloons of the same color in succession will boost the strength of the power-ups. For example, one red balloon gives a player one missle; two red balloons, a heat-seeking missile; while three red balloons grant a pack of ten missiles! Diddy Kong Racing is simply one of the best looking console games on the market. The game utilizes a proprietary Rare technology called "Realtime Dynamic Animation" (RDA) that produces eye-popping visuals. The RDA influences are subtle, involving mysterious things like "specular highlighting" and "environment mapping," but the overall effects are outstanding. The environments of Diddy Kong Racing are free of fog and pop-in. Of particular interest are the RDA character images. All Diddy Kong Racing characters are polygon-based, and cleverly animated. In fact, everything in DKR is polygon-based, with the exception of the occasional shrubbery. Amazingly, the game maintains a fast and smooth frame rate to compliment the pioneering graphics. Although the game suffers from a bit more clipping than the usual N64 game, it generally pulls off its ambitious visual goal with apparent ease. As with the landmark Goldeneye 007, in Diddy Kong Racing Rare demonstrates an ability to milk the very best from the N64 hardware. As a Rare production, Diddy Kong Racing incorporates only Rare characters. Gamers have a choice between eight main characters, and two hidden characters. These characters include Diddy Kong himself, Banjo the Bear, TipTup the Turtle, Conker the Squirrel, Pipsy the Mouse, Bumper the Badger, and so forth. The characters have clearly been designed with "cuteness" in mind, and their appearance will often make older gamers laugh out loud. While these characters don't approach the universally acclaimed genius of Shigeru Miyamoto creations like Mario and Yoshi, they also have their own unique appeal. The environments of Diddy Kong Racing are compelling...from an arid desert to a lush jungle waterway to an icy mountaintop. Fun (and graphically impressive) touches abound, from a lumbering green brontosaurus to a big blue whale. Many levels of DKR actually feel like an interactive thrill ride, and have obviously been inspired by Disney creations. DKR possesses the same bright pastel cartoonish quality of Super Mario 64. Rare definitely decided to maximize the cute factor, as these characters and colors are even cuter than those of Mario Kart 64. (Whether or not this is an advantage depends on one's CTC, or cute tolerance capacity.) Those who dislike cute games should simply look elsewhere. The audio in Diddy Kong Racing is outstanding. Several levels of DKR have brilliantly catchy theme songs; on some levels, traditional standards have been integrated into the new songs. There are many sampled voice clips throughout DKR, and each character has its own series of yelps and shouts. It is clear that Rare understands the importance of audio to a great game, and DKR delivers some of the best audio in an N64 title yet. But beyond the cutting-edge graphics and audio, Diddy Kong Racing simply delivers the fun. There is so much to do in this game, that it is difficult to resist. The designers of DKR have carefully balanced the various challenges of the game so that they are difficult, but never frustrating. At a suggested retail price of $49.99, Diddy Kong Racing is a bargain. If you can tolerate the cuteness, you will enjoy this title.

Overall 9.25 out of 10

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