MARIO KART: DOUBLE DASH / Nintendo / Gamecube
Here's Double Dash in a nutshell: awesome multiplayer racing, disappointing multiplayer battle mode, overly frustrating single player that weighs the game down despite some really fun tracks.
The problem here is that the game handles multiplayer and single player races with the same rule set. When playing by yourself, the computer essentially drives as a 7-man team against you. In 150cc (and even in Star Cup in 100cc) that just makes for too much cheap shit to contend with. First of all, the computer drivers save all their best ammo for you. The guy currently in 2nd place might have the guy in 1st place dead in his sights in the final lap ... but he'll spew every shell he picks up back at you in 3rd instead, making no real attempt to advance or pass, just sitting there cockblocking you. Same thing if you are in or near the lead and then fall off a bridge or something ... the 6th or 7th place guy, whom you haven't seen at all in the race yet, always unloads their best special weapon on you in passing as soon as they see you. Then there's the typical Mario Kart "rubberbanding." In this game, every racer in front of you gets a speed and acceleration bonus. This also applies to the guy immediately behind you. For example, if you race against DK and DK Jr., when you're near them you'll frequently see them toss one of their huge bananas ahead, and then proceed to stupidly run right into it ... but it doesn't matter because it barely slows them down at all, they don't even come to a complete stop, and they're back at top speed in a second. The cumulative effect of all this cheap AI is that, if you fall back into 4th place or lower in 150cc or Star Cup 100cc, you might as well just reset the game because you're never climbing back into the race. It can waste a hell of a lot of your time when you're in 1st or 2nd going into the final race and then you get cheesed like a motherfucker and end up losing your trophy.
The new 2-man racing style is a bit controversial. You pick two characters per kart instead of one, and the one that's not driving is on weapons-throwing duty. But when not holding a weapon, they can also try to swipe an opponent's weapon when you bump into them. This can be played cooperatively with two humans on one kart as well. It's actually a pretty fun idea that works well in multiplayer, but it does also effectively cut the playable character roster in half. Your kart's overall rating in speed, acceleration in weight is also affected by the two characters you choose, plus the type of kart you choose. Certain characters also can't drive certain karts, for example Baby Mario apparently can't reach the gas pedal of Wario's pimped-out Caddy. There's only two new characters to unlock as you play, but gold medaling each race usually unlocks a new kart type to select.
Perhaps the game's biggest strength is that it's so zippy, and gets you into and out of the action instantly and with no fuss or loading times. It's about as fast of a framerate as you'll see on a console. The tradeoff is there's not many "woah" moments and the graphics don't exactly push the Gamecube's considerable capabilities to their edge, but it makes it perfect for a party game, especially with non-gamers and "casuals" who just want to get into something quickly that has simple and intuitive controls.
The new chaotic, "your lead is never safe" gameplay style ends up being a double-edged sword. It makes Double Dash perhaps the best party game of the series for pure chaotic fun value, but makes solo play a tedious grind in the more difficult reaches. I do give it a 4/5 anyway though, I feel anyone who has a Gamecube or Wii should have a copy on hand for multiplayer racing since it's one of the best on any platform at that job (Brotip for the hetero gents out there: girls who don't normally play games LOVE Mario Kart, particularly this game for some reason.)
* Gameplay Video