May 27, 2014

Mario Kart 8

Nintendo needs a system seller for the Wii U console, that’s just a fact. All signs are pointing to the latest entry in the Mario Kart series, Mario Kart 8 to be once such system seller. While Nintendo surely has a long term plan for their console, there is still a need to move the consoles in the market. Will this latest Mario Kart game be enough to sell more units? Along with two of my children, I took Mario’s latest Kart title for a literal test drive. One of my girls liked it, and one didn’t. Let’s find out why.

Mario Kart 8 brings the series into the high definition world with all the colourful visuals, wild tracks, and fast and furious gameplay that fans love. Many fan favourite tracks return from several previous titles, all upgraded visually to the Wii U’s native resolution. What makes this title different, however, are the new gravity defying tracks that twist and turn. Left, right, up, down, no direction is off limits in Mario Kart 8. Some tracks even dip themselves under water, and jump over vast ravines.  New anti-gravity wheels allow karts to race up walls or even upside down.  These new wheels will also give players a boost if they knock into other players.

Mario Kart 8 Screen (1)Mario Kart 8 introduces players to custom kart design. After a preferred type of kart from a selection of motorcycles, traditional karts, or 4×4 ATVs, players can then customize the look of their tires and, finally, a glider wing. Gliding wings could be anything from a traditional kite-style wing, to a parachute, to a sunflower. This wing pops out of the kart on tracks that throw players into the air and allow them to guide the kart as if it were a glider soaring over gaps in the track and even leading to higher placed shortcuts.

Mario Kart 8 is not easy either. While the easy set of tracks, called 50cc, is fairly simple to obtain 1st place, it will take much practice and a near perfect run to achieve the same in the 100cc and the 150cc runs. AI opponents are a tough bunch and will not take it easy on the players. At all.

Mario Kart 8 Screen (18)For a break from the traditional Grand Prix type of gameplay, Mario Kart 8 includes a Battle Mode for up to 4 players. In Battle Mode, players compete against each other and against the computer controlled opponents in a bid to be the one to pop the most of their opponent’s balloons. Each player starts with three balloons strapped to their kart and half the players drive one direction around the track while the other drive the opposite way. It’s a fun mode at first, but seems to get old fairly quickly.

My daughter and I were trying to find a mode in Mario Kart 8 that would allow just the two of us to complete against each other but that doesn’t seem to exist. The game wants at least 4 players to be playing at the same time, whether human or AI. Oddly enough, as a Nintendo made game, this game does not allow the much heralded 5th player that other first party games do with the Gamepad. While the Gamepad can certainly be used as a controller, and the player using it can watch the screen on either the TV or the Gamepad, there can still only be 4 local players at a time. I would have preferred to see the game allow the Gamepad player to see just their own kart on the gamepad screen leaving more screen real estate for the remaining players on the TV.

Mario Kart 8 Screen (6)

Ultimately, Mario Kart 8 is a fun karting game. It really doesn’t offer a whole lot more over previous incarnations of the game, though it is the first to be played in full HD and it does feature online leaderboards and a variety of new weapons and power-ups. Fans of previous Mario Kart games will absolutely love Mario Kart 8. Everything they have come to love about this franchise returns. I only wish it took more advantage of the core Wii U hardware such as the capabilities of a 5th player and a dedicated screen for the gamepad.

Mario Kart 8 achieves what any Mario Kart has achieved. It is the perfect party game with wild gravity defying tracks and loads of fun.

Nintendo, we gave you an hour and we are IMPRESSED.

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About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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