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Mario Kart 8 review: another solid reason to invest in Wii U

Thursday, 15th May 2014 08:01 GMT By Dave Cook

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”Given how nice Mario Kart 8 looks in motion, the inclusion of video tools marks another smart decision on Nintendo’s part. On top of this there’s local play for up to four people, online play for up to two racers and a fresh take on the SNES racer’s classic battle mode.”

There are 16 tracks in total spread across four cups, as well as another 16 classic tracks that have been revamped to include anti-gravity and other new tricks, so they’re not just simple re-treads by any measure. There’s also plenty of kart customisation options from the start along with unlockable chassis, wheels and gliders that care earned after hitting certain coin tallies. The inclusion of bikes adds another layer of stategic play into the mix.

While two-wheeled vehicles are faster than karts, they over steer around drifts, making them more unwieldy during high speed 150cc events. The fact that bikes suffer in the handling department is further evidence that producer and director team Hideki Konno and Kosuke Yabuki have strived to keep gameplay on an even keel. The same cannot be said for the accursed blue shell, which still continues to infuriate, except in my experience it has become a genuine problem that needs addressed.

For those unfamiliar with the blue shell weapon, it’s a projectile that seeks out the race leader and slams into them, bringing their kart to a stop for a moment. It’s long been viewed as a heavy-handed form of rubber-banding that punishes players for getting too far ahead of the pack, but during my time with Mario Kart 8 at home I found myself struck by it, only to be over-taken by the racer in second and even third place almost instantly. That’s simply not fair. It should only be used when the gap is significant, not while I have other racers nipping at my heels.

Perhaps these occurrences were mere anomalies but I’ve dropped several places and only barely clawed it back because of the blue shell. It might get patched by Nintendo post-launch, but right now I think it needs a deal of tweaking. Mario kart 8′s new horn weapon can be used to blow the shell away if you’re lucky enough to have one, but you need to get the timing right or it’ll fail. I like the inclusion of this new counter-defence item, and it fits snugly alongside all of boomerang plant, red shell and other returning power-ups.

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Another new addition is Mario Kart TV – or MKTV for short – a replay feature that condenses all of your best moments in a race into a quick highlight reel at the end of each event. It’s also possible to publish footage of entire races on YouTube and MiiVerse complete with slow-mo effects for all to see. The highlight tool does a good job of framing up your best weapon strikes or overtakes to make them look cinematic, but it can also be tweaked with filters to focus on a particular driver or type of event, such as high impact collisions.

Given how nice Mario Kart 8 looks in motion, the inclusion of video tools marks another smart decision on Nintendo’s part. On top of this there’s local play for up to four people, online play for up to two racers and a fresh take on the SNES racer’s classic battle mode, in which players attempt to pop each of the three balloons tethered to their opponent’s kart.

Mario Kart 8 is more than Wii U’s visual benchmark; it is further proof that Nintendo’s focus on control and fun comes from a good place. I’m a firm believer that a game rammed full of polygons, high-quality textures and graphical trickery amounts to very little unless it handles effectively. The company has its control method honed to a point that this racer feels wonderful in your hands.

That’s hard to convey through words or imagery, but once you hit the tarmac and let rip with those drifts and jumps, you’ll be thankful that Nintendo didn’t try to reinvent the wheel with this one. What this stability has done however, is allow the studio space to show that it can produce visually-arresting titles that sit comfortably among the new-gen pack. In these regards, Mario Kart 8 is up there with the rest of the new-gen pack.

Disclosure: to assist in writing this piece, Nintendo sent Dave a Mario Kart 8 download code on Wii U.

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8 Comments

  1. mistermogul

    Looking forward to this but I really hope it’s not another MK that’s ruined by the blue shell. It’s infuriating that you get punished so much for winning and one reason why the SNES MK remains the best imo

    #1 3 months ago
  2. ManuOtaku

    Great to have your input dave, i always seek your comments on a game because they tend to be very unbias.
    Nice to see this is a good game with a lot of neat things, my last favorite console mario kart was double dash, since then, for me the best mario karts came on handhelds, i did like the wii version especially my kids, but double dash were better imho.
    Now Iam surprise with the good graphics, it id remarkable what nintendo can achive with inferior hardware, power wise, imagine what they could achive with more power under the hood. It was like marip galaxy, that although wad not as open and big world like banjo nuts and bolts, they manage in some parts of the game to come close.
    But I believe nintendo knowd what they can achive with their hardware, graphically speaking.
    Ps I did love nuts and bolts by the way, i hope rare will make a second one.

    #2 3 months ago
  3. BrokenSpline

    I will be getting the MK 8 Wii U bundle. With what the bundle will offer; wii mote and steering wheel, Deluxe Wii U, Mario Kart and a choice of another game(which I will be getting the Wind Waker HD). There is little reason not to pick it up come May 30th. Can’t wait.

    #3 3 months ago
  4. james_barber

    Just got the Wii U bundle purely for this game! Its out for delivery at the moment! Hurry up Yodel!!!!

    #4 3 months ago
  5. locus2k1

    Although the blue shell remains, I have been able to avoid it once or twice already :D really enjoying the game, and mktv seems pretty cool.

    #5 3 months ago
  6. Legendaryboss

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqWy47w6NbM – Launch Trailer.

    #6 3 months ago
  7. polygem

    tbh…it looks good, plays great but at the same time…it´s the first wiiu game that disappoints me a bit. it really doesn´t try anything but being mario kart which must not be a bad thing at all but for now, i didn´t get any kicks out of playing it – i´ve only finished the 50cc cup though :D so we´ll see.

    that mercedes crap leaves a very very bad taste even if it´s not in the euro version of the game. looks like a door opener to me. all eyes on nintendo. hope they don´t fuck it up.

    #7 3 months ago
  8. polygem

    @polygem
    scratch that. it´s ace. played it online tonight. ace.

    #8 3 months ago

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