Diddy Kong Racing (Nintendo 64) Review

By James Temperton 24.08.2003 1

Review for Diddy Kong Racing on Nintendo 64

Nintendo invented Donkey Kong years ago, and since then, aided by Rare, there have been various different family members created. From womanly Donkey Kong's, to child like Donkey Kong's they were all though off, but one of the few to ever make a success was the little ape known as Diddy Kong. After a few years sitting in the shadows the little ape made a leap for the big time, and got shoved in a vast array of planes, hovercrafts and karts. An interesting idea and one that works oh so very, very well.

Rare have a habit of it. They seem to be able to take some ideas and with a magical adhesive they all come together and form a lovely gaming experience. Strangely with this title we only heard about it a couple of months before it went on release and so it all came as a bit of a surprise, a nice surprise that is. In a genre that is fast becoming one of the most used in gaming it is clear that something rather special is needed to enable it to be dubbed 'superb' and the developers are more than happy to oblige. Cuteness is more or less obligatory in this file of gaming and it is all here on blatant view so we should really start off with how it looks.

And not being ones to disappoint we will. So, things are looking good with Diddy and his crew? You bet they are! Crisp, bright and varying it is all just how it should be and creates a perfectly manic but eye friendly visual base. What we love is the speed. You really do feel like you are going wonderfully sharp, and nothing ever looks blurred or fuzzy, it keeps remarkable detail and enables you to get engrossed in a stimulus enriched world of colour and movement. It's not quite like being on drugs, but we have been informed it is close. There are various different levels and it is the variety of rich and deep visuals that really impresses us. We love cute things, we love them to bits. And this offers visuals so sugar-sweet it should have a calorie warning on the packet; get it?

Screenshot for Diddy Kong Racing on Nintendo 64

Now the whole game is rather ingeniously based around a hub 'level'. Here you have the doors to the different tracks in which you can race, with each area based around a specific theme. Snow, water, land and some more random ones, but each is wonderfully designed. However in order to get into the new tracks you have to earn a type of token, more on that later. This 'hub' contains one of the world's most annoying gaming characters, yes, an Elephant, so forgettable we can't actually remember his name. However he does have a purpose. He will challenge you to race him around the island in order to get some more goodies and he also posses the magical power of being able to change you between your three vehicles. Three you say? Yes we do, three. A kart, a plane, and a mini hovercraft! So what of these tokens you need to access the tracks? Well oddly (and adding further to our view that Rare were on some sort of substance when they produced this one) you have to get balloons. To get you started some are dotted around the 'hub' area but the main way in which you pick them up is to hurtle round the track and get into pole position. The more balloons you get the more tracks you can enter and the closer you get to completing the game.

Screenshot for Diddy Kong Racing on Nintendo 64

Now we mention the three vehicles are included in the game, and this is where the genius really comes to fruition. You usually have the choice of two or more ways of getting about, with some allowing all three and a few only being able to be got around with one motored beast. This is a wonderfully innovative feature. To have one track that can be tackled in various different ways adds so much to what is often a comparatively flat genre. One level is made of lava, and having a very heavy-duty hovercraft you can whiz about on the floor of molten rock in that, or in a plane you can zoom about all over the sky. There are various levels like this and they are all tackled in different ways depending on the craft you choose. The ambiguity on how they can be tackled is the key to the level design. With different passages for each craft, you feel like you are racing a totally different track depending on which mode of transport you choose.

Of course with three vastly different vehicles to choose from the controls are going to vary aren't they? Well no they don't really. The thing is the game gives you the simple things and puts them into vastly more difficult surroundings. One button makes you go, one button fires of weapons, and the main analogue stick makes you go forward, or if you are trying the plane for the first time straight into the nearest solid object. The controls are simple, intuitive and allow for fluent and superbly pleasurable gameplay. In doing the simple things best you are never frustrated, because in the end it all comes down to you not having enough skill, not the game being poorly made.

Screenshot for Diddy Kong Racing on Nintendo 64

Gameplay is the soul of a game, much like the nougat is the soul of a Mars Bar and the soul is obviously the most important bit. Balance is everything here. Things need to be simple, but well thought out so you can abuse and exploit them to improve your skill in the game. We love to have a challenge, and this game never disappoints. From gently being led into how the whole thing works in the 'hub' section you get the basic idea of how to fly in small areas and avoid skidding all over the place in the hovercraft to being able to turn sharply in the kart. It is all there in front of you by the time you enter the first area, but when you are in a competitive and active racing competition things can go very pear-shaped unless you keep on top of your game. So you have completed all the tracks in one area and it is on to the boss. Here you simply have to race a rather large animal around a track. Simple you might think but it is amazingly hard. We were sure they all managed to get two second head starts and the only way to win is to shoot at them again and again until you are close and then make a pass. Of course this is made a tad tricky when they do their best to sit on you all the time. The structure of how you complete each themed racing world is very similar and with all this done you are challenged to a final boss battle. All standard stuff wrapped up into a neat little bundle, but there is more!

You are offered a number of different characters to play through the game in. Each one is a suitably odd animal and each one has his or her own attributes. From a rather camp crocodile to a mouse and a badger all the members of 'The Gaming Brady Bunch' are here, some having the unfortunate effect of scaring us. Now single-player is big enough but multiplayer is genius! You can race all the single player tracks against your mates, which makes for a great laugh especially with the various different weapons. Rockets, homing missiles, bombs and even fart clouds (yes, large gaseous balls of green) all perfect for disabling them or simply blowing the sky-high! Whilst the tracks are all well and good but by playing the one-player mode like a skilful little basted you can earn some battle modes that we can only describe as 'inspired'. One is a fairly tedious hovercraft 'shoot 'em 'till they fall' jobby, but the other three and simply wonderful! First off is the flying level. Here each of four players has a nest. The aim is to hatch three eggs in your nest by collecting them from a big nest in the middle. The problem is everyone else is doing the same, and everyone else can nick your eggs before they hatch. Very amusing when you have a friend that gets very annoyed when you consistently steal their eggs!

Next up is a very Mario Kart based battle mode. Everyone is on their little kart (all four of you) and you simply have to blast the hell out of each other on three weapon packed levels. This is immense fun and with have you and your mates in stitches, or end in violence, but either way better than an evening sitting there in front of the idiot box watching Corrie. The other level of mention is one where you have to fill up your chest with bananas before anyone else. Much like the egg level, but without the stealing, this is great fun, but got a bit tiresome after a while.

Screenshot for Diddy Kong Racing on Nintendo 64

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Not as good as Mario Kart 64, well your bound to ask that, but we would put them both on a level playing field. They both have that special feel to them and are both glorious examples of supreme gaming. Many people will look over DKR as a copy of better things, but it tries to be different and succeeds. It is not a failed attempt to be special; it is a glorious game that will bring you many happy gaming times.

Developer

Rare

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Driving

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (13 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Budd (guest) 27.11.2012#1

Oh man the music is the best part.

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