Wednesday 1 January 2020

Mario Kart 64 (N64 review)

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1997

Mario Kart 64 is a racing game and the first 3D entry in the series.

It supports 1-4 players and the Grand Prix mode tasks you with placing first in a series of four races. Opponents can be attacked with various weapons that include Shells, Banana Peels and Thunderbolts. The 16 courses have incredible design with a huge amount of standout moments, such as the train running through Kalimari Desert and moles that pop up from the ground in Moo Moo Farm. Perhaps the most unique and inspired is Yoshi Valley though with its multiple routes in its maze section; interestingly, your race position is hidden in this course, so the tension is kept high until the finish line! The only course that falters is Rainbow Road, as it's too long and the transparency effects and bright lights can make it difficult to see upcoming Chomps as they charge towards you. While the racing is easy for newcomers to get to grips with, what's most welcome are the awesome tricks that advanced players can use; these are great for improving your skills and include drifting for mini boosts, and braking when you hit a Banana Peel to avoid spinning out. Unfortunately, the CPU rubber banding is outrageous and its overuse can ruin much of the fun in higher difficulties; no matter how well you race, there always seems to be someone on your tail in the final lap which gets seriously aggravating due to pure skill not being rewarded. The frame-rate is rock-solid though and even in VS. mode there's barely a hiccup. Battle mode (where you must pop all three of your opponent's balloons to win) is multiplayer hilarity, although I do wish there were more than four arenas and that you could challenge CPU opponents.

Mario Kart 64 is an exceptional racer with rock-solid controls and some of the best course design the series has ever seen. Be warned though that the irritating catch-up system does cheapen the gameplay in advanced difficulties, so you'll need to learn every trick in the book to even stand a chance against the overly aggressive CPU!

Random trivia: Various unused features (such as vertical split-screen) can be enabled using Gameshark codes.

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