|Horseshoe Gulch - a real life mystery level from DKR.|
NOTE: The more I've pondered the dream I'm about to describe to you, the more I realize that it's based in reality. So, if you see something in italics, it means I'm jumping to the real world to describe what likely inspired what I saw in the dream. :)
In the past, when I was a hardcore gamer (particularly Genesis and N64), it wasn't surprising to have a dream every now and then about a game I loved. I've had numerous dreams about finding Stop N Swop in "Banjo Kazooie", and, in what was probably the earliest game dream I remember, I was playing some sort of overhead-view level in Sonic 3 where all the Sonic characters were in a canoe, rushing down a waterfall. (The music in this imaginary level was that of Sandopolis Zone Act 2 - which, at the time, was only mysterious and intriguing, as "Sonic and Knuckles" had yet to come out, and of course all of its music could be heard early in the "Sonic 3" level select.)
But, those sort of dreams died out when I stopped playing video games. In spite of that, I've twice had a dream that strikes me as very cool, and if I had game making ability (or the ability to make a Diddy Kong Racing mod), I'd totally bring what you're about to read to life.
(Okay, first I should point out that there is actually a lot of stuff hidden away in the data of Diddy Kong Racing, including several levels - most of which are unplayable completely, but one called Horseshoe Gulch is possible to drive around in, at least until the level suddenly ends in a wall. So, this dream is sort of based on truth in that regard - the dream is just a lot cooler than what actually exists!)
So, if you've played DKR, you know that the worlds are basically a semi-circular hub, with doorways leading to the various levels within that world. One world is called Sherbet Island and is a series of water-based levels, the hub for which (if I remember correctly) is inside some sort of round building you need to navigate with the hovercraft. Importantly, for this dream, one of the levels is called Whale Bay.
Now, in my dream, the entire world was called Whale Bay, complete with T.T. saying the name of it when you entered. In this version, though, the world was a small beach, with the level entrances (and world entrance) spread out neatly along a semi-circular mountainside, probably two to each side of the world entrance - I think DKR's worlds had four main levels, didn't they? Anyway... as in the real DKR, if you drove down into the water, you could float out a short ways before hitting an invisible wall. The edges of the mountain suddenly took 90 degree turns at the invisible wall, with the new flat sides inaccessible to the player and mostly out of view.
(I have actually seen Duke Nukem 3D homebrew levels designed like this, where a body of water enclosed by a mountainside had a very similar design, including an invisible wall that prevented a player from going out too far into the sea. And yes, one might expect to see messages on the normally inaccessible portions of the mountainside - they are Duke 3D maps after all....)
(This part coming up may also be rooted in reality - namely, the "Sonic Adventure" glitch that allows Big The Cat to, with great effort and patience, break through an invisible wall and swim under the hotel, somehow accessing an early beta version of its interior. If you know about that glitch, this next bit might seem a bit familiar!)
The main point of the dream was that someone online discovered a glitch that allowed you to break free of the playable semi-circular area of Whale Bay, and squeeze between the invisible wall and one of the flat mountainsides facing the sea. As the story went, you entered the world in a hovercraft (no other vehicle seemed to work) and went towards the right from the world entrance, down to the edge of the mountain's curve where it met the invisible wall and hooked a hard right along the water.
(Yes, folks, these are early N64 physics - the beach plane + the invisible wall + the corner of the mountain would create an unstable vertex that could possibly be broken by a persistent player. "Mario 64" has plenty of these, including corners you can long jump through at certain angles, and particular spots in the walls of the sunken ship that allow you to swim out into the black void. So something like this could very easily exist in DKR.)
If you were to continually press forward, nudging against the corner of the invisible wall and mountainside at a particular angle, your character would eventually pop forward a bit and be alongside the flat mountain wall facing the water. You would appear to be stuck in place at first, but if you kept forcing your way forward against the invisible force, you would very slowly grind along the length of the mountain wall.
(Again - this is VERY similar to how the 'secret lagoon' glitch in Mario 64's sunken ship works. When Mario breaks free of the ship, he has to be forced upward towards the water's surface through invisible barriers.)
Eventually, you would see a new area ahead, and once you cleared the mountain wall, you would pop out into the new area, moving freely. Here was ANOTHER beach, looking very similar to Whale Bay's hub, but with a totally different set of levels - all far from finished, being either simple beta test areas or half-finished ideas, Horseshoe Gulch being one of them. Where one would expect the large world entrance door to be was a cave entrance, leading to a small series of tunnels lit with purple torches; some of the tunnels led to additional unfinished levels, some were dead ends, and at least one led to a large open area that seemed to defy purpose, almost as though it were intended for a large boss of some sort. (Wizpig, perhaps...?)
That's basically the extent of the dream... but the idea of such an amazing find, a whole secret world of strange and unfinished levels tucked away in a game I know well, would be incredible. Sure, massive things ARE found in video games years after the fact - look at GoldenEye (another Rare game), which not only includes all of the Citadel level fully intact, but ten totally playable and perfectly emulated ZX Spectrum games embedded in the cart's data. Other interesting things have slipped by unnoticed for years, such as in Duke Nukem 3D (a well-hidden secret exit in The Abyss that only functions under a specific circumstance) and Link's Awakening (the "Glitch Dungeon", accessible literally by wedging Link into a corner). But as far as I am aware, no, Diddy Kong Racing does not have a secret world of unfinished levels tucked away.
Granted, something like this DOES exist, but not in DKR - I'm almost certain it's in Heretic. That was another hub-based game, from what I recall, where each world contained doors to several levels. (If you've played Hexen, that did the same sort of thing.) Accessible only by a warp cheat, however, was a secret hub world containing entrances to various unfinished levels. That was more than likely the influence for my DKR dream.
But, you know, it seemed so realistic and so possible, especially since there are several mystery levels tucked away in DKR... almost makes me want to get a copy of the game, go down to where the mountainside meets the sea at an invisible wall (not far from the Sherbet Island entrance, mind you!), and see if I can push that hovercraft through it to unexplored territory. ;-)