Posted on June 13, 2013 AT 09:24am
There are a few staples that belong on every system Nintendo puts out. You’ve got to have a 3D Mario game, you need a Smash Bros. title, but no system is ever complete without its Mario Kart game. Revealed during the E3 Nintendo Direct, Mario Kart 8 is the next major console release of the racing series that has greatly influenced the kart-racing genre.
Picking up the game, it was easy to instantly feel comfortable with controlling my racer. In fact, one simple button-press on the gamepad screen switches between the tilt-based control-scheme of the Wii to the precision controls of the analog sticks. The surprise here was that, unlike the version on the previous console, the switch can be made at any time, so if you want to change mid-race you can do so. The button to change is centrally located, so it’s easily pressed by reaching in with a finger at any time. That way, if you’ve forgotten to switch before the race or you’re swapping with another player, a simple press, even after the race has already started, will get you back with the controls that allow you to dominate.
A new mechanic to the series, the ability to take your kart and drive on the walls and ceilings of courses, had me worried when I first saw the trailer. I could already feel myself getting motion sick from the topsy-turvy scene changes. After having played the demo, my worries have been put to bed. While, in all of the courses I played at one point or another, I was driving with my zero-gravity wheels, the camera work handles it perfectly to prevent motion sickness. The camera either moves along with you completely during those sequences, or moves slightly off-kilter just to let you know you’re racing on the wall.
To activate the zero-gravity racing, there are blue pads that you can drive across. This will turn your wheels so that the circular part is facing the ground and your kart hovers slightly. Once you transition back to an area that has normal gravity, the wheels make contact back with the road and driving returns to normal. I loved occasionally looking above me and seeing other racers driving along the ceiling or the walls. There are also multiple paths along each course which can lead to even more opportunities for zero-gravity driving.
The demo that Nintendo had included three tracks: a normal race track, a city and a haunted house. All three of them were beautifully designed and the sense of scale they were able to create was impressive. Each area is incredibly detailed and they give plenty of opportunities to see large areas of each course. By far, I enjoyed the haunted house course the most. While the first two were more introductory tracks, this one featured constant gravity shifts and the imaginative design one would expect from a Mario Kart course.
Driving towards the front of the haunted house, you’re immediately greeted by a boo sculpted above the doorway. Once inside, you’re greeted with floating tables, walls that are distorting in and out and, of course, plenty of boos. The track also brings back the two mechanics introduced in Mario Kart 7, the hang-glider and propeller. For those who may not have played the 3DS title, the hang-glider allows you to glide through the air after a jump and the propeller enables you to drive through water. All these elements together flow perfectly in this course and provide a prime example of what can be done with proper track-design in the game.
Seeing the graphical jump from Mario Kart Wii to Mario Kart 8 is staggering. The characters and tracks look the best they have yet. The characters look better than they have in the pre-rendered cutscenes of past games and the broad landscapes of the tracks almost make you forget to watch the road. Nintendo has also stated the the online features of this Mario Kart game are going to be even more robust than they have been in the past. Being someone who fancies himself pretty good at the game, this is extra exciting for me. Look for this game when it comes out Spring of 2014.
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