Reviewed on: Nintendo Wii U
Reviewed by: Darryl Linington
Nintendo has released some great titles in the past, including: Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, and Super Mario 3D World. Included in this line-up is the ever so popular Mario Kart 7, which pleased Nintendo 3DS fans with its elegant gameplay mechanics and crisp, clean visuals. Fast forward to present day and it’s almost time for Mario Kart 8 to grace Wii U consoles worldwide. While Mario Kart 7 impressed us on the 3DS… can Mario Kart 8 do the same on the Nintendo Wii U?
Welcome to the ultimate world of karting
As a major fan of racing titles, I couldn’t help but be extremely excited for what Mario Kart had to offer. When I first started up the game I immediately thought that, as a skilled racer, I would immediately place first within every single race that I participated in… let’s just say that I was proven wrong on quite a few occasions. You see, while Mario Kart 8 comes across as a title aimed at a younger demographic… it will most definitely test your skills even if you are a veteran racer. While obtaining first place is possible, it is holding onto to the position that makes things more challenging.
At the start of a race each driver starts off on a semi-even playing field (depending on your kart type, tyre set and so on); however, things get extremely exciting and chaotic when you reach the first set of power-up items. By this time you are either dealing out a host of devastating attacks, or being the one on the receiving end of them. There were quite a few occasion where I held onto my first place position, for the majority of a race, but then quickly dropped down to last place due to the fact that every other player on the track bombarded me with a selection of overwhelming power-ups. While this was frustrating at times, it ultimately made Mario Kart 8 an exciting and challenging game to experience.
When it comes to power-up items, Mario Kart 8 features a rather large variety of them. These include the return of the following items: Coin, Green Shell, Triple Green Shells, Red Shell, Triple Red Shell, Banana, Triple Bananas, Mushroom, Triple Mushrooms, Golden Mushroom, Fire Flower, Star, Blooper, Bob-omb, Spiny Shell, Lightning and Bullet Bill. In order to not spoil things for new players, I will leave out what each returning power-up item does exactly.
Now of course with a new Mario Kart there has to be the addition of new power-up items… right? Well, it seems that Nintendo has most definitely listened to consumers and introduced four extremely useful power-up items that could lead you to victory (depending on if you use them wisely). These new items include:
The Boomerang Flower is one item that I found highly useful, especially during the last lap of each race. The Boomerang Flower can be used up to 3 times in order to hinder drivers positioned in front of you.
The Piranha Plant automatically devours every obstacle in your way; however, each time it munches on an obstruction or another player it gives you a slight speed boost. While it does essentially help a player eliminate a variety of threats… it can however become a slight hindrance. There were quite a few occasions where I would find myself being thrown off the track due to the fact that the Piranha Plant had given me multiple speed boosts while travelling around a rather tight corner. Let’s just say that players should use this one with caution.
The Super Horn is most probably one of the most useful power-up items to grace Mario Kart 8. Not only can it be used to incapacitate other drivers, but it also emits a radial shockwave that can be used to destroy incoming attack items.
Getting the Crazy 8 power-up will not only excite players, but also offer them the opportunity to destroy the opposition on the track. Crazy 8 gives a player the ability to use a selection of 8 power-up items. These items include: Coin, Bob-omb, Mushroom, Star, Blooper, Green Shell, Red Shell, and a Banana. While I have only been lucky enough to receive the Crazy 8 a few times, it proved to be extremely useful especially when I was close to quite a few other drivers.
While Mario Kart 8 is packed with a variety of power-up items, it is also filled with 32 visually attractive tracks to use them on. With 16 new tracks and 16 retro tracks available, what more could you ask for? While each track has its own theme, you can see that the developers have placed in a large amount of work when it came to perfecting each track. Whether you are racing through Mario Kart Stadium or battling it out in the Bone Dry Dunes, you will be presented with probably one of the best looking games to grace the Nintendo Wii U since its launch.
While the tracks are absolutely stunning, the same has to be said about the characters featured within Mario Kart 8. Whether you are playing as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Yoshi, Shy Guy, Lakitu, or any other character you will be pleased with the visual quality of their character design.
A prominent new feature in Mario Kart 8 is anti-gravity. Anti-gravity allows players to drive on almost any surface featured within the game. While most players tend to avoid contact with other players on the track, the anti-gravity feature promotes contact. While racing through an anti-gravity section you can smash into other players in order to gain a speed boost… but bear in mind that the other player will also obtain a much needed boost as well. This allows players the opportunity to strategically approach these sections in order to figure out the best way to use this feature to there advantage. There were quite a few times when I would smash into another player in order to obtain my speed boost; however, they would find themselves speeding into a wall rather than tailing me from behind. This it what makes Mario Kart 8 such a unique and challenging game to experience.
When it comes to choosing your vehicle, Mario Kart 8 features an array of Karts, ATVs and Bikes. Not only can these vehicles be used on land, but they can also be equipped to glide through certain track sections as well as travel underwater. I must admit, that I couldn’t stop laughing when each character tried to talk under water. They pretty much sound like they are actually underwater, which is a nice touch at the end of the day.
It’s all in the controls:
Once again Nintendo has allowed players to switch from their TV display to the Wii U’s gamepad display with ease, via an onscreen prompt. This will allow you to carry on with your game, even if the family wants to watch TV. Furthermore, players can now use the Wii U gamepad as a steering wheel, which ultimately brings a sense of realism to Mario Kart 8.
In addition to the above mentioned features, players can also track the position of other players by using the track navigator as well as keep track of their position at all times. It is great to see Nintendo taking full advantage of the gamepad, as other games seemed to lack this sort of innovation.
Mario Kart 8 has a variety of online gameplay modes, which really allow players to take their karting experience to a whole new level. You can compete in global or national tournaments as well as attempt to beat the times that other players have set, across the globe, in time trial challenges. While online functionality was slightly limited at the time of this review. We can however confirm that players will have full access to them at the time of launch.
Mario Kart 8 will also allow players to showcase their skills to other players, within Miiverse, by simply uploading their clips to the Mario Kart TV service. Players will then be have the opportunity to comment on each video, which is a real plus if you are looking for some hints and tips.Additionally, you will also have the opportunity to upload clips to services such as YouTube, once the title releases.
Mario Kart is by far one of the best racing games I have played on the Wii U. While the A.I can be relentless at times, Mario Kart 8 is still fun and extremely challenging to play. While the gameplay is solid and the graphics are absolutely stunning, there was however one gameplay mode that Mario Kart featured that I did not entirely return to much during my time with this title. This mode was the Battle Mode. Not only is Battle Mode slightly tedious to play, but it also restricts gamers to only 8 tracks. Let’s just hope that Nintendo opens up a variety of new courses to experience within this mode
Overall, Mario Kart is a superb title and most definitely a game that all Nintendo Wii U owners should get their hands on. It is well polished, just excuse the Battle Mode, and features a ton of content that will keep your entertained for hours on end.
Lasting Appeal: 9.5/10
Check out some of the features in this gameplay trailer.