Review by Retro
"The first game of its kind, and a great one at that!"
While sitting quietly on his tree house porch one day, Diddy Kong decided to read a letter that he had received awhile back. The letter was from Timber the tiger, one of Diddy's old friends. The short, but meaningful letter read: ''Dear Diddy, help!!!'' It turned out that an almighty and oversized pig called Wizpig has done something not so pleasant. Therefore, it's up to Diddy and a bunch of his fellow animal friends to try and find this mysterious creature called Wizpig and give him what he deserves!
Unlike what most people seem to think, Diddy Kong Racing is actually a one of a kind game. Sure, at first glance of the back of the box, some might think that it's nothing more than a clone of the wildly successful Mario Kart 64, but let me tell you, it is a lot more than that. Diddy Kong Racing has all the great racing that you've probably previously experienced in Mario Kart 64, but it adds an adventure feel to the mix. I have overheard many people state that Diddy Kong Racing is much like Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64 put together, and I must say that I agree with them in a way. Your main mission is to locate and collect all of the balloons and amulets that are scattered in every which direction throughout the vast worlds. You can earn balloons by winning races, by completing a challenge, and a few are just floating around somewhere out in the open.
There are five huge worlds, such as an ice world full of icy, upside-down loops, a world overflowing with water, and even one that features neighboring dinosaurs that roam through the environments. At the start of each world, your first glorious mission is to just come in first place in each of the races. After you win all the races in any of the worlds, you must then proceed to race that world's boss. The bosses are not your normal, every day kind of boss. Instead of a boss that wants to destroy you in the blink of an eye, these lighthearted (not exactly) bosses just want to out-race you. Once you put a boss to shame by showing him who is the better racer, you then have to complete something called the Silver Coin Challenge.
A Silver Coin Challenge isn't much more than racing all of the same races in the same world (again), but it's not exactly the same. This time around, all of the competing, computer controlled racers will be about twice as fast, and, you must collect all the silver coins that are scattered around the level. To make it short, you must collect every single one of the silver coins, and then race to be the first one to cross the finish line. Then you must race the boss once again, but this time the boss will be much quicker. Finally, after you do all that, you have the special honor of playing the world's Trophy Race, which is all the races in a world, one after the other, to form one challenge. I have to admit, having to do all of these things just to complete one world in Diddy Kong Racing can be somewhat tedious, but not really. Fortunately, Diddy Kong Racing isn't either too easy or too difficult of a game; it's just right.
Diddy Kong Racing offers a total of eight playable characters when you play the game for the very first time. At the time, none of the racers were recognizable except for Diddy, but with the release of Banjo-Kazooie and Conker's Bad Fur Day, you can now add Banjo and Conker to the list. Each of the racers possess his/her own style of racing. For example, Diddy is an average racer in every aspect without any major up or downsides. On the other hand, Krunch the alligator is big, so he has slow acceleration, but he is very powerful, which allows him to not get pushed around much when he collides with other drivers.
One of the ways that Diddy Kong Racing is above most other racing games is that it offers three different vehicles to race in. These three vehicles are: Go-carts, hovercrafts, and airplanes. Depending on the environment of the upcoming race that you're about to challenge, the game automatically chooses the vehicle for you, unless you're playing a multiplayer game. When you race against one or more of your friends (playing multiplayer in other words), you'll have the option of choosing which vehicle to race in, in many of the tracks.
As you probably suspected, there are a few weapons and gadgets that can be used during a race. In each race, there are many balloons of different colors that are in bunches. Any time you drive through a balloon, you will instantly obtain an item such as a missile, an oil slick, magnet, or a shield. In each of the kinds of items, you can get powerups simply by driving through more than one of the same colored balloon, in a row. For example, when you first run through a red-colored balloon, you will be equipped with a single missile. If you drive through another red balloon before you shoot the missile you just gained control of, you will be the proud owner of a powerup in the form of a homing missile that will chase your opponent down, upon firing. Finally, if a homing missile isn't good enough for you, you could collect one more red balloon (3 is the maximum for any colored balloon) and earn ten normal missiles.
Along with the items that originate from balloons, many bananas are also scattered about in each level. Balloons are useful because the more you collect, the faster your racer will become. Anytime you get hit or come in contact with a bad item such as a missile or a bubble, you will lose a few of these precious fruits.
The other things that are frequently seen in racing games are also here, such as shortcuts and zippers for extra bursts of speed.
In the graphics department, Diddy Kong Racing, like most games made by Rare, is packed with very impressive visuals. At times, you might catch your eyes wandering around the screen, checking out the graphics instead of paying full attention to trying to win the race. The water is just as realistic looking as that in Wave Race 64, the backgrounds and tracks are colorful and include a decent amount of detail, and the characters are well drawn and have decent animation. I was also impressed with some of the graphical effects, especially how the tail lights on the back of the cars light up when you drive into a dark tunnel.
The sounds in Diddy Kong Racing are also convincing, but some of the characters' voices, such as Pipsy's, are a little on the cutesy side. The various sound effects such as firing a weapon, or using a zipper, are good, but some of them could've been better. However, the music makes up for all of the lost ground, with catchy tunes that go great with the levels or other places that they represent. I especially like the music on the screen where you choose which track to play, and the Christmas-sounding music in the snow levels.
Diddy Kong Racing's controls make great use of the Nintendo 64's controller. You'll have to use almost all the buttons to perform the many tasks, and it's all a cinch to get used to. It's even easy to learn how to become successful at doing power slides and turns on a dime.
Not only is Diddy Kong Racing fun the first time through, it's fun to play from start to finish even after you do everything there is to do. To take the replay value to even dizzier heights, there are other options of play. If playing solo is what you prefer, you can race against the clock and try to get the best time you can on any of the tracks in the Time Trial mode. If playing against other people is your game, you can race up to three of your friends on any of the available tracks (including the Trophy Races).
Even though the name of the game is Diddy Kong Racing, there are things other than racing that are available in this game. There are two competitive games in which you can compete against your friends and/or the computer controlled players, to see who can do certain things the fastest and win (I'm not going to explain these two games and ruin it for you). Two fun and unforgettable battle levels are also included.
If all of those things aren't enough to convince you that Diddy Kong Racing is a great game, there are a bunch of useful codes and secrets that are waiting to be discovered. To make it short, Diddy Kong Racing is full of replay value, and you'll never get tired of playing the game with other people. It's also fun to beat the game over and over by yourself. All in all, Diddy Kong Racing isn't just a great racing game; it's a fun adventure.
As great as Diddy Kong Racing is, it isn't quite flawless. In a few of the levels in which you race using an airplane, there's some slowdown involved. Also, like I mentioned before, some of the characters' voices are a little on the cutesy side. There are a couple of other things I could complain about, but they are not major enough to even mention. If you would like to own a racing game that has more than just traditional racing, Diddy Kong Racing would be a great game to get.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/04/01, Updated 05/20/02
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