Anyone who knows me quickly comes to realise that I am big fan of Kart Racing video games and that I can be very critical of their quality. A game in this genre that I have a history with is Rare Wares Diddy Kong Racing which released for the Nintendo 64 in 1997 with a Remake coming out on the Nintendo DS 10 years later in 2007. Unlike most game I actually came to know the game through the remake and have only recently finished the original which is the version I am focusing on today, I will however be addressing differences between the DS version at the end of this review so that I can give a comparison.
All is calm in the jungle until Diddy Kong receives a letter from his friend Timber the Tiger, poor Timbers Island has been taken over by a wizarding space hog named Wiz Pig and the only way to get rid of him is to beat him in a race. Diddy quickly contacts his friends Banjo the Bear and Conker the Squirrel (yes these are the same characters you are thinking of) to meet him at Timbers Island and together Diddy, Timber and all of the Island folk team up and practice racing, getting ready for the tough race against the evil Wiz Pig.
The game uses a Hub world as a means of travelling between the different areas of the game and while it is a very basic hub world it is still fun to explore and even has some hidden balloons that need to be discovered.
The main purpose of the game is racing and it is very similar to other Kart Racers such as Mario Kart however this game has a bit of a twist because as well as cars you can also race in hovercrafts and aeroplanes.
All of the vehicles are easy enough to control however finding the strengths of each racer will help you determine the best choice for each vehicle, I personally found that Tip Tup the tortoise was a great choice all around and I mainly used him.
In races players can collect power ups (rockets, speed boosts, oil, shields and magnets) if players hold onto a power up and collect more of the same coloured balloons the power up they have will be upgraded and this can done up to three times for maximum power.
After completing a boss race players will need to repeat all of the races again but now having to collect all of the silver coins and still come first, this becomes particularly challenging in the later worlds of the game.
After beating a boss the second time you can then compete in a trophy race which is not needed but does go towards completion of the game and most people do want this. The issue have is the repetition here, its the same races three times in a row and while still fun it does get a little a bit boring.
There are four main boss races in the game not including the two races against Wiz Pig which I have not included images of in case you want to beat this game yourself. All of the races are actually very challenging and had me stuck a few times, in the end I had to learn the patterns, avoid almost all obstacles and try the race with multiple characters until I could win, these were all very memorable and really satisfying to finish.
Each world hides a hidden key which will open a door to a battle mini game, these are a nice break from the racing and were in my opinion very easy but one my favourites parts of the game if only because it was different. Some of the keys are really difficult to find and don’t worry once you find one you can return to the lobby and the key will still be with you so there is no panic to win the race as well.
There are two secret unlockable characters in the game, one of these is Drumstick the chicken who is easily one of the best racers and the other its T.T the clock who will challenge you to a race if you beat his times for each course, after winning all of the times trials and all of the races against him he will become a playable racer.
The music was composed by David Wise who had previously worked on the Donkey Kong Country series, the music is wonderful in this game and it has that Rare Ware quality that I love, they didn’t hold back here and I feel this specific game focused more on fun music than atmospheric due to the fact that is a racing game and not a big immersive adventure such is the case with other other Rare Ware N64 titles. I really enjoyed the music in the snow world as it reminded of Christmas music but with a more energetic twist.
Diddy Kong Racing is a great game and I have very few issues with it, in fact the only real problem is that it is a little bit repetitive, I would have fixed this by having the second races replaced by either having to do a scavenger hunt or solving a difficult puzzle in the main hub which would eventually unlock one key hole in a giant door and once you unlock this door you can do a boss rush to unlock another secret racer (who ever that may be), this boss rush would replace the second boss races and the puzzles would replace the silver coin challenges.
Apart from this, it has nice visuals, fantastic music and super fun gameplay which shouldn’t be missed and if you have a N64 I recommend picking this one up as it is not too expensive and is a really good time.
The game was remade for the Nintendo DS handheld system in 2007 first change to note is the absence of Banjo and Conker who due to the Microsoft purchase of Rare Ware were replaced by Dixie Kong and Tiny Kong.
The game is practically the same with small differences of course the DS is a dual screen so when you race you now see the map on the bottom screen instead of the screen you are racing on and honestly I prefer this, what I don’t like is that once you finish a race you cannot return to it until you have completed the world so if you want to return for the key you cannot do that without first finishing the worlds boss.
Silver coin races are now replaced with touch screen challenges where the players has to click on all of the silver coins and balloons over three auto driving laps of races and this helps to break up the repetetive game play and is a good change in my opinion.
Wiz Pig and Taj the Genie can also be unlocked as playable racers in the DS version and some race tracks have had modifications to help them feel a little more fair for example in star city there is an additional route beneath the bridge so that if you fall you do not need to back track and in the final race against Wiz Pig the lasers have been removed to make it a little bit easier than it was previously, although for the final boss this change felt unnecessary as it is supposed to really hard.
The DS version is very good and is almost the same game with few differences some of these are great and others maybe not so much but I am finding it difficult to determine the inferior product here as I feel while the strengths and weaknesses differ between games the end products are so close in quality that its only fair I give them a similar score and say for you to decide which version you would like to play.
Diddy Kong Racing 9.6/10
Diddy Kong Racing DS 9.6/10
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