Mario Kart 8
Hold on to your shells ladies and gentlemen because Mario Kart 8 is here and it’s one hell of a ride. The Wii U has been given its iteration of this classic Nintendo franchise and that sees the residents of the Mushroom Kingdom duke it out on Go Karts and Bikes in various Mario themed racetracks. The first thing that players will notice about this game is how simply amazing it looks. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous with Nintendo showing an amazing level of attention to detail that often isn’t apparent until you watch the replays in slow motion where you actually notice how the character animations, kart animations, and track designs and how they have been taken to the next level. Whether it’s the cheering Toads or the Giant Lava Bowser, Princess Peach giving her best royal wave as she passes by, or the seamless transition to the anti-gravity mode, this game just looks fantastic.
However it’s not just a pretty game, it also happens to be extremely fun to play as well. The roster of racers has grown to include 30 characters but the numerous Baby versions and Bowser Kids are a little disappointing given the lack of characters like Diddy Kong and King Boo. The vehicles themselves however offer a great variety of options to choose from with plenty of unlockable Karts and Bikes as well as numerous parts which suit all types of play styles. These are all fairly quickly unlocked by collecting coins in the various game modes.
All the usual game modes have returned with single and multiplayer Grand Prix modes in 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc classes as well as Battle, Online Play, and Time Trials. Grand Prix mode offers the best way to learn the tracks as you progress, unlocking new cups by earning trophies in the previous ones. There are a total of 8 cups and 32 tracks, 16 of which are new and 16 of which are refurbished retro tracks. New offerings like Mount Wario and Toad Harbor are fun to play, but the retro offerings like Toads Turnpike and the always classic Rainbow Road are the real gems of this game. Not only does the nostalgia add a satisfying feeling to the games but they now look and play better than ever before.
Battle Mode has changed as well but sadly not for the better. The dedicated battle arenas are gone with Nintendo choosing instead to simply rehash the racing tracks and adding balloons to the mix. This feels like a major letdown as Battle mode loses the variety it offered to the standard Kart racing.
Time Trials is fairly standard with the usual three boosts available as players test out their skills and aim for the best possible times. However the Ghosts of the Nintendo staff in the form of their Mii’s is a nice little addition that gives this mode a little something extra.
For those looking for a real challenge on the other hand Online play will be where they are heading. There are Regional and Global arenas as well as easy to make custom Tournaments. Players are able to jump in quickly and easily and can test their skills against the best of the rest of the World. The only disappointment with this mode is the lack of communication options between players which are limited to a few preset options offered by Nintendo that can only be used in the pre-race lobby.
Still it is the ever important items that turns Mario Kart from an average racer into a hair raising adrenalin filled experience. All the basics such as Banana Peels, Shells, Mushrooms, Stars, Lightning Strikes, and the nightmare that is the Blue Spiny Shell return. Players however will be glad to see some of the new offerings which include the Piranha Plant that snaps at all surrounding obstacles and players while giving mini boosts, a multi-use Boomerang, and most importantly the Super Horn. The Super Horn is a godsend for players in first position, a rare item that sends out a shockwave that will knock out other surrounding players and also if timed correctly will stop incoming shell attacks, even the dreaded blue spiny shell. It’s a simple inclusion by Nintendo that adds a whole new level of strategy to the gameplay.
However it is the addition of the anti-gravity which takes an amazingly simple concept and uses it to add a whole new dimension to the game that pushes Mario Kart 8 in front of all its predecessors. The tracks in Mario Kart 8 now twist and turn in every direction taking racers on completely vertical hair pin turns and even throwing them upside down. The controls even change in anti-gravity mode, as there is a subtle feeling of gliding that requires that little extra adjustment. Also bumping into other karts at the right angle while hovering will give you a handy little speed boost.
With amazing graphics that ironically feature the best looking versions of Mario and his compatriots to date and fast paced fun gameplay, Nintendo have taken their standard Kart formula and tweaked it in all the right ways. Mario Kart 8 is a must have game for any Wii U owner and that will hopefully breathe new life into the console.
- Amazing Graphics
- Imaginative Track Design
- Anti-gravity used well
- Online play not very interactive
- Character offerings a little lacking