"Hello there! This is for you"
Well now, where can I begin with what can only be described as the best gaming experience of my childhood? This was a game that was forever living in the shadow of the much loved Mario Kart franchise, so many people may take one sweeping glance and think "oh, it's just another karting game with various items to give you an advantage over other racers" however I can assure you there is much more to this game than meets the eye.
While I admit it may sound like just another cheap Mario Kart knockoff, this could not be further from the truth! To highlight just a few features present in this game that trump other games in its genre; the presence of a story mode is a very welcome addition to the karting mix, and while the story is not all that in-depth, it is still something that sets it aside and really allows this game to shine. It is also important to remember that, as with Mario games, this was originally targeted towards a younger audience so the story had to be fairly easy to follow. Next is the ability to play in one of three unique vehicles; an aeroplane, a hovercraft, or a normal kart. As far as I am aware, Diddy Kong Racing is the only karting game available to this day to have such an option! It isn't just a gimmick either, the vehicle you select (changeable by talking to an NPC in the main hub, but restricted to certain worlds) actively changes the style of play, so it is down to the player to decide which vehicle is best suited for which racetrack in order to get the best time. Yet another feature present in this game is a passwords section, making the races a lot more customisable. If the CPUs are too easy for you, then there is a password to make them harder, so this game can literally provide dozens of hours of extra playtime even after the credits roll.
If you've always been the type of person who avoids karting games due to the rather luck-based nature of the item selection process, then Diddy Kong Racing might just be the game to get you back into the swing of things. Items in this game are obtained from different coloured balloons, and each colour corresponds to a fixed item (for example a red balloon will always give you a rocket to shoot at other players) which removes the element of chance, but still provides the proverbial glue to keep the game entertaining. The power-up function keeps strategy to the items though, for example if you collect 3 blue balloons you will get a super powered up turbo boost which will be much more effective than the use of three non powered-up boosts used separately.
I have given this section a 9/10 because, at the time of it's release in 1997, these graphics were truly cutting edge. A lot of effort has clearly been invested into adding nice little details to impress players, and given the fact that it is a Nintendo 64 game I think it has stood up to the test of time reasonably well.
Probably the greatest game soundtrack I can think of, even to this day I still find myself humming along to some of the tunes from this game from time to time. It is just so catchy and just about every song can really engage you in the racing environment and spur you on towards that coveted golden balloon! It just had to be a perfect score of 10/10 here.
As I mentioned previously, this game has a HUGE amount of additional content with which to stay very occupied for many hours. I would say that all of these features make it a very addictive game if, like me, you are a big fan of karting games. From boss battles to time trials, this game has it all, so once again it gets a perfect score of 10/10
Being generous and giving it a 6/10 here. While the story itself isn't exactly mind-boggling, I have to give Rare credit for actually providing us with a story to follow here. It does make the world of difference.
This category only gets a 9/10, simply because the only place I can fault it is the simplicity of the story itself. However, as stated previously, this game had a target audience of children under 10 so I really shouldn't be too critical of that. Besides, when I first got my hands on this game at around 7 years old I had no complaints about the story, so it's all retrospective I suppose.
This one was a little hard to put a figure to because to be honest the game can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. There are options available to make it harder if you're up for a challenge, but equally it can be made easier if you're struggling (both via the passwords system from the main menu). Of course if I was rating the game's difficulty without any of this password business, I recently played through the whole game again and it wasn't until fairly late in the game that I really started to struggle, so the game gets a 5/10 from me here.
I can't rate this game highly enough! If you have never played Diddy Kong Racing before then I urge you to give it a try. It was even recently re-released on the Nintendo DS due its immense N64 popularity, so surely it's worth checking out!