Developer: Nintendo EAD
Platform: Wii U
Although technically the eleventh entry to the series, if you count the three arcade games developed by Namco, Mario Kart 8 is the latest in the hugely successful Mario Kart series and was recently released exclusively for the Nintendo Wii U system.
This latest entry brings with it all of the features of the previous games, whilst also introducing a few new things.
Just as you would expect, the single player portion of the game consists of you, the player, choosing from a selection of characters and racing through a grand prix (consisting of 4 races) in an attempt to win the corresponding trophy. Players receive a predetermined number of points at the end of the race, depending on their finishing position, and he or she with the most points after 4 races is deemed the champion. There’s no story; just simple racing.
As you race, you collect a variety of weapons, ranging from bananas to trip up your enemies to the infamous blue shell, which wipes out the player currently sat in first place. Whilst it is entirely possible to play a whole race without actually using these, it is recommended in order to add to the never-ending chaos that is always present in a Mario Kart race.
The item distribution is entirely random, so you will never really know what you might get. The worse you are doing in the race, the higher the chance is that you will get something that will really shake up the game. If you are leading the pack however, don’t expect to get anything other than a banana.
Nintendo also included Mario Kart 7’s Kart Building feature in Mario Kart 8. As well as simply choosing a character to control, you now also build (to an extent) your vehicle based on three parts: Karts/Bikes, Tires and Gliders. Whilst players can use certain customisations to get slightly better stats on their vehicles, if you are anything like myself you will probably just choose what looks cool. New vehicle parts are unlocked by collecting coins during races, just like in Mario Kart 7.
Bikes also make a reappearance in this entry of the game, alongside two or three “All-Terrain Vehicles”, however they have been greatly “nerfed” in order to make them much more fairer to race against when other players choose to race in a Kart.
New to the series in Mario Kart 8 is Anti-Gravity Racing. In certain parts of some racetracks, players are able to race along parts of the tracks that – as the name suggests – defy gravity. Some of the Anti-Gravity Racing is compulsory and cannot be avoided, however in other tracks it adds a whole new way to get past certain areas. Do you drive along the main track that is guarded by an enemy or two, or do you make use of that gravity-defying wall to the side and completely bypass them? The choice is entirely yours.
Multiplayer is the main attraction for any Mario Kart game however, and Nintendo did a great job with Mario Kart 8. Players are able to race with up to 4 players on local splitscreen or up to twelve players online.
The races online run smoothly, in my experience there is little to no lag whatsoever and a lobby is always easy to find – you can search for a lobby worldwide or purely continental.
Mario Kart 8 is the perfect example of Nintendo’s abilities to bring out the best in their consoles despite not necessarily being the most powerful on the market.
Despite being released on an “inferior system” when compared to the other current generation of home consoles, I’d go so far as to say that right now Mario Kart 8 is probably one of the best looking console games on the market. Seriously.
The game only runs at 720p and 60 frames per second, which may seem disappointing at first, however its not so bad when you consider the other consoles on the market are also struggling to top that at this current stage of the generation.
The frame rate does drop to 30fps when playing split screen multiplayer, however it isn’t so noticeable in my opinion as the game still runs as well as you’d expect.
The controls of Mario Kart 8 are extremely simple, so much so its entirely possible to play and succeed at the game with just three “buttons”: The left analogue to control your kart’s direction, the “A” button to accelerate and “ZL” to use your currently equipped item. It’s pretty much been the case for all the entries, actually!
Mario Kart has always been, to its core, that simple. Anybody should be able to pick up, play and most of all greatly enjoy this timeless franchise.
Obviously to the more advanced player there are more control options to be made use of as well, such as drifting via the use of “ZR” to gain speed boosts, however these additional moves really are not necessary to the average player.
Overall, Mario Kart 8 is a solid game, and probably one of the best games out right now on the system. It really surprised me that Nintendo would wait this long to release the game, however the wait was definitely worth it.
Should you buy this game? Definitely. It’s great fun for everyone!
Even if you own a previous entry, the graphical updates, vehicle rebalancing and new gameplay features alone make it a definite must buy for any Wii U owner.