Kart Racing was becoming a popular genre in the video game world by the late 90s. Mario Kart 64 was released in February of 1997 on the Nintendo 64 to massive commercial success. That same year, in November Rare, released Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo 64. Would there be enough room on the track for both games? We’re at the starting line in this Diddy Kong Racing review!
Diddy Kong Racing Plot:
Unlike Mario Kart, my Diddy Kong Racing review has a plot. Diddy Kong racing takes place on an island. That island let’s call it Timber’s Island is ran by Timber the tiger and his parents. Timber’s parents decide to go on vacation leaving him in charge. While they are gone, Timber’s Island is invaded by an evil intergalactic wizard named Wizpig. This Wizpig is an expert kart racer and having conquered all of the courses on his home planet comes to Timber Island to challenge the tracks. Wizpig forces Tricky the Triceratops, Blue the Walrus, Bubbler the Octopus, and Smokey the Dragon to be his four leaders of the island. Fearing the island is in the hands of Wizpig forever, Timber recruits the best kart racers to his island to challenge Wizpig and his four leaders. If you are successful and defeat all four leaders on their various tracks and challenges, then Wizpig opens up his tracks. Beating him results in Wizpig being launched back into space and Timber’s island returning to normalcy.
Diddy Kong Racing Gameplay:
I had Crash Team Racing as a kid and thought it was one of the best games ever. Diddy Kong Racing, and I put an emphasis on racing because the game is not just karts, surely inspired CTR. The game takes place on Timber Island as the hub world. You’ll be able to operate a kart, boat, and airplane as you explore the island as the game progresses. There’s not much difference between the boat and the kart, but the plane courses have obstacles that I needed to fly over or under during my Diddy Kong Racing review.
You’ll be able to select from numerous video game characters with some of them being very recognizable from Rare’s other games. I chose to play as Diddy Kong in my Diddy Kong Racing review as the game is named after him but you can also pick Conker and Banjo two famous characters in their own respect. Aside from them, you can play as a crocodile, turtle, stopwatch, mouse, and badger although I don’t know why you’d ever play as any of them. Whoever you pick, you’ll be collecting golden balloons to unlock new races and sections of the island.
Like Mario Kart, you’ll be able to collect weapons and power-ups during the race. Throughout the track, there are colored balloons. Each color represents a different power-up you will get. You can get things like a missile, oil spill, turbo boost, and shield. If you choose not to use the power-up and run over another balloon of the same color of the power-up will increase in power or quantity. Each victory will give you a balloon from the local elephant genie. You can also race him around the island for a chance to win three golden balloons, which I did during my Diddy Kong Racing review.
The bosses of each section are unique and instead of racing you in a kart or plane, they will use their bodies in the race. I didn’t expect that during my Diddy Kong Racing review and it was fun to race a dinosaur up the mountain or an octopus around the sea. They will cheat and get a head start but once you catch up or use a weapon on them the key is staying in front to avoid the hazards they scatter throughout the course. I found most races to be easy until I reached the fourth section which gave me a big challenge in a village course. I raced that track almost twenty times before claiming victory. Like most kart games there are shortcuts and secrets to be discovered. They aren’t obvious but once you learn them they’ll help you immensely.
Where I have a gripe in my Diddy Kong Racing review is the excessive collecting in this game. Most kart games offer the option to re-race tracks with the reward of bonuses or other small challenges. Well, if you want to beat Diddy Kong Racing, you better learn to love collecting and a big increase in difficulty. When you beat the leader of a section they’ll challenge you to complete all the challenges in their land and race them again. This means that you’ll not only have to win on all the tracks again but collect silver coins and other requirements to win more balloons. You have to do this if you want to reach the end of the game and it’s a lot harder than the first time you raced. One challenge is to collect silver coins that are on the track and still win the race. It’s a lot easier said than done when the coins are off the beaten path and require lots of skill to collect and stay in first. It’s difficult and I felt unnecessary to make it mandatory. Keep that feature in but let extreme completists take these challenges on.
One thing I was happy to see during my Diddy Kong Racing review was the absence of a rubber band effect like Mario Kart 64 has. Get too far behind the leader, good luck catching up. You’ll also have the opportunity to blow by the other racers with no chance of them catching you. It makes the game more built around skill than luck. If Mario Kart does have an advantage over Diddy Kong Racing it’s the steering. I felt that karts slide around the track too easily compared to what I was used to in Mario Kart 64.
Diddy Kong Racing was unheard of in my childhood. All my friends played Mario Kart 64 so I didn’t hear about Diddy Kong Racing until a few years ago when a friend was talking about how they preferred it over Mario Kart. I checked it out just for this review and was surprised that it still holds up to this day.
Diddy Kong Racing Review Score:
If you want more to your kart racing game than just pure arcade fun, give Diddy Kong Racing a serious look. It will keep you playing for hours as you explore the island collecting balloons and completing tasks.
Diddy Kong Racing scores an 8.4 out of 10.
What would you write in your Diddy Kong Racing review? Do you remember when Diddy Kong Racing first came out? Who did you pick to play as? Do you like DKR or Mario Kart 64 better? Did you beat the game or did you give up on completing all the challenges? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!