Mario Kart doesn’t feature a developed story as such, the name says it all. Mario and his buddies (and usual enemies) all gather to test their expertise on the karting track. This time around players can choose their types of vehicles, tires and gliders all with their own varying stats that add another dimension to races. Defying gravity and physics, racers will compete underwater, in the air and even upside down. For a total of 32 tracks, 16 original tracks and the other 16 are reimagined courses from previous games.
Mario Kart 8 boasts a creative visual HD enchantment in the likes of which I haven’t experienced for a long time. Colours just seem to pop out of the screen. The combination of the colours and the variety of the worlds that have clearly been developed with the utmost love and care is bliss and sure to strike a resonating nostalgic chord to those familiar with the series. It even left a newcomer that I played with in awe at the delicate attention to detail of the world and colours. The vibrancy of the tracks, the backgrounds and the roads were all so striking that it was just simply awe-inspiring to play on such tracks. Many complained about the supposed Wii U’s dated hardware but honestly, this is what a true next gen game is meant to look like. No Watch_Dogs downgrade here, just a pure HD technicolour bliss.
At the conclusion of each race you are given the opportunity to view a well-structured highlights reel. You can view, edit, expand and upload these videos directly to YouTube, which adds another great social aspect to the game. I should warn you though as an Australian resident, a decent ADSL 2+ upload speed took nearly 45mins to upload a 30 second video. Not Nintendo’s issue by any means, just the poor internet quality of Australia but be weary of the long upload times if you wish to upload a lot.
Tunes that accompany you over the course of your race are brilliantly suited to the specific tracks they accompany. Again you can feel the love and care that has been taken into development of these tracks. And as familiar players will know the final lap of the course causes the tempo of the music to increase nearly twice that as to what it normally does. Yet these songs still sound superb as you brace yourself for the ensuing chaos in the last lap.
I haven’t played a game in the series since Mario Kart 64. So heading into my first race exceptionally green but ripe with competitiveness, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that Mario Kart 8 takes an extremely simple and approachable control scheme that accommodates itself to any player.
Mario Kart offers a plethora of options to get your karting fix. Single and multiplayer both locally and online, across a surplus of competitive options, I should note however four players can participate locally and two online with up to 10 other online participants. Players can join in the mayhem using a variety of the Wii U gamepad, Wii U Pro controller and even the original Wii remote. This really justifies how accessible Nintendo wanted this game to be.
Players can dive into the Grand Prix, where 12 racers vie for first place tallying their points across 4 races. Time trial is as simple as it sounds, empty course and the open road to perfect your racing lines and find faster alternate routes. Vs. really needs no explanation as you go head to head against a local adversary. Finally, Battle where racers can take to the track in any direction they choose with the goal to eliminate their opponents by popping their three balloons with normal items found during any typical race.
I was intrigued with the new and various weapons to be utilised against other races (new to me at least). The sound horn acts as kind of shock wave disabling any racer in your radius, this is obviously just one example in the no doubt multiple new items appearing. It was great to see the return and continued use of the dreaded Blue Shell or Bowser Shell (as it was known in my house hold). I just wish that there was the old booby trap fake item pickup to lure unsuspecting foes into.
As I mentioned earlier in the piece there are a total of 32 tracks. 16 are completely new making their Mario Kart debut and another 16 revisions of previous courses that appeared on various other consoles such as the N64, 3DS and Wii. A new and exhilarating feature is that races are contested underwater, in the air, against walls and even upside down. Players are sure to find themselves turning with the gravity to adjust to their new angles of racing but it doesn’t grow strenuous adjusting to the movements, a great development balancing act. The widely touted anti-gravity features are not just for show; they play a crucial role in tracks, utilizing bumpers to boost speeds and trying to keep track of the hectic colours and looping tracks that may cause giddiness from the sheer fun of it all.
There are plenty of unlocks to be gained through winning competitions and the collection of coins. The unlocks come in the shape of other racers, vehicles, tyres and gliders. Each of those four factors previously mentioned come into play when choosing what formula is right for you. Some give you better speed but less grip for example so perfecting your style to suit your vehicle adds another whole layer to the depth of this game. It does have a slight learning curve too it but I felt it wasn’t really too crucial to the gameplay.