Mario Kart has been a staple for Nintendo for what seems like since the beginning of all time. You absolutely cannot have a Nintendo console come out without at least one new Mario Kart game. The Wii U is no different, although the time it’s taken between the console’s launch and the title’s release has been unexpectedly long. However, doing the rounds at expos, those who had the chance to play it will tell you that it’s definitely worth the wait.
The series has seen new tricks introduced at every version of the game. But Mario Kart 8 seems to have kept some of the better additions from previous games, such as hand-gliders and motorbikes from the seventh installment, and added an even better one.
It’s this newest addition, anti-gravity is the main feature of the game, adding, quite literally, a new dimension to the races. All of a sudden, you have the ability to race along walls, upside down above your opponents, or on a track that twists and turns, willfully defying pedestrian physics.
Whilst this does initially sound and looks like Nintendo have turned every circuit into Rainbow Road, thankfully, the majority of the tracks aren’t as fiendish and the difficulty curve is still nicely raked despite this new loop-de-loop look. But neither has it become a walk in the park providing more than enough challenge for long-term fans of the series, with the anti-gravity adding a sense of insane spectacle to what is already a pretty barmy game.
Thankfully, the corkscrewing about isn’t distracting, and merely just opens up more opportunities besides the more obvious shortcuts to beat your friends and make new enemies. But it’s still Mario Kart at its heart, with all the familiar track themes and power-ups as well as some new ones, and the fact that no matter how skilled you are at piloting your vehicle around the circuit, you’ve still got to have chance on your side.
Being on the Wii U means that for the first time the graphics are in full high definition, and boy, do they look spectacular! There has been real attention to detail in making this the most colourful and dazzling Mario Kart ever. Combine this with the devil-may-care approach to gravity, you have a game that is as stunning as it is bonkers.
The only thing that we could possible gripe about the game is its use of the Wii U’s screen pad-cum-controller. Whilst it’s nice to be able to use analogue controls for a change, it’s just not as intuitive as the motion controls. And whilst there is the option to use the pad as a motion controller instead, it just feels chunky and labour intensive compared to slick and light white stick that has worked really well with the series since on the Wii.
Furthermore, there are some tweaks to what buttons do what, so fans of the Wii version will probably get a little frustrated as their muscle memory will betray them as they settle in for the first few plays. We’re not sure why Nintendo have decided to swap these around (like jumping and using items), but they have, though thankfully it doesn’t take too long to get used to.
Trippy, tricky, and terrific!
This is a Mario Kart where the imagination and enthusiasm of the developers has really paid off, setting it to be one of the best installments of the franchise to date. It’s still as mad-cap and fast-paced as ever, but looks amazing with the new features feel more inspired than just cheap gimmickry. Trippy, tricky, and terrific, it’s a game no Wii U owner should be without, and a damn good reason for anyone who doesn’t own one to go out and buy it.
Mario Kart 8 will be available for the Wii U exclusively in Spring 2014. For more information, visit www.nintendo.com.
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