Published on April 12th, 2015 | by David Dakota
Review: Mario Kart 8
Format reviewed: Wii U eShop
Website: Official Site
It’s been over two decades since Nintendo release the first Mario Kart game on Super Nintendo. It was an immediate hit and, Virtual Boy aside, has made an appearance on every piece of Nintendo hardware since – it’s now on Wii U, so how does the eighth iteration stack up?
There’s a simple formula behind Mario Kart – take Mario and pals, drop them in a kart (or bike) and race them around (mainly) Mushroom Kingdom themed courses all whilst trying to gain an advantage using a bunch of Mario-inspired weapons. It’s fair to say that this basic formula hasn’t changed too much since 1992, new titles add might add a new spin and take advantage of hardware trickery but every game in the series has it’s roots firmly set in 1992. Whilst many franchises of that age have fizzled out Nintendo’s been able to keep delivering well crafted, joyously fun sequels. Mario Kart 8 proves no exception.
Mario’s world is faithfully represented in glorious HD, the visuals really are some of the best Nintendo has ever produced; the artists really have crafted something special here, courses burst with strong colour and iconic features, character design and animation bring Mario and co to life like we’ve never seen before – it’s a joy to see (and something we hope Nintendo will do more of across all it’s games). Sound is also noteworthy, effects are crisp and music gloriously punchy and, of course, hummable.
Whilst Nintendo do make subtle control changes to Mario Kart the series has always offered incredible precision (whether using classic buttons and sticks controls or motion control). I stop short of saying Mario Kart 8 has perfect controls since i’m sure they’ll be improved upon in the next iteration. Mario Kart 8 retains it’s 3DS predecessors gliding and underwater gameplay whilst introducing ‘anti-gravity’ racing, so you’ll be racing up walls and upside down; if we have one criticism of these gameplay ideas is that they’re aesthetic and fairly arbitrary, you’re not given the chance to play creatively with these ideas – if you try to push these mechanics to create your own shortcut the game will consider you off-course and you’ll be repositioned back on the main course. It’s these more expert techniques that we think core gamers enjoy but it could be said that allowing this kind of gameplay could unbalance the game for younger or less experienced gamers.
Time Trials return; as always you can attempt to beat your times and those of staff ‘ghosts’. For connected Wii U’s you’ll be able to download other players ghosts. We’d have liked to have seen Nintendo build a community around time trials, although your ghost data and general posts can be made to Miiverse things just seem to get lost in Nintendo’s social network. Battle Mode also makes a comeback with the dubious achievement of being worse than any previous iteration; we honestly feel Battle Mode has great potential as an alternative multiplayer option but Nintendo seem determined to transform it to the dullest, least well-thought out mode.
Mario Kart 8 has a robust online component; up to 12 players can play online; racing with friends or random folks from across the globe. The online experience holds up well, it’s quick to get started and we’ve seen precious few glitches and even fewer communications (something that plagued the early days of Mario Kart Wii). Voice chat is only available in freind-only rooms (but not in-race), we do understand Nintendo is reluctant to include voice chat for public rooms but omitting private chat between friends in public rooms seems archaic to us. Obligatory posting to Miiverse is included, this includes the ability to post short auto-edited race highlight videos to Miiverse and to your own Youtube (something we’ve like to see more Nintendo games do by now). We’d have liked to have seen more editing options within this; there’s also an argument that gameplay broadcast should have been included but we’re not convinced.
All-in-all, Nintendo have excelled themselves with Mario Kart 8; great design, fun gameplay – it’s exactly what we expect from them. We definitely welcome Nintendo’s commitment to additional content by DLC and amiibo figures. There are some additional options we’d like to see, some crazy omissions from previous games that we feel should have been reinstated but overall Nintendo’s delivered an excellent package.