Mario Kart 8

EDGE - - GAMES - Nin­tendo Wii U May 29 (JP), May 30 (EU, US)

Wii U

First things first: it’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult to re­turn to pre­vi­ous Mario Karts af­ter this. Even 2011’s ef­fer­ves­cent 3DS out­ing, Mario Kart 7, feels some­what life­less by com­par­i­son. The new HD vi­su­als are gor­geous, but Nin­tendo has also built on 7’ s neatly in­ter­laced me­chan­ics and in­tro­duced a nu­anced han­dling model to cre­ate the great­est Mario Kart yet.

But don’t fret: things aren’t so dif­fer­ent that you won’t feel im­me­di­ately at home. Drift boost­ing is still an es­sen­tial, adren­a­line-spiked tech­nique, and the same is true of draft­ing and stunts (hit the jump but­ton af­ter crest­ing the lip of a ramp or other ob­ject and you’ll get a lit­tle kick of speed in re­turn). But while 7’ s drift was im­me­di­ate, the first time you try it in 8 will likely see you sail clean off the tar­mac due to the karts’ new­found in­er­tia. It takes a few cor­ners to get used to, but is quickly re­vealed to be a deep and re­ward­ing sys­tem – pulling off an apex-kiss­ing drift around a tough cor­ner is an un­com­monly po­tent dopamine hit.

A more con­tro­ver­sial ad­di­tion is the spin boost, which can only be used on 8’ s new anti­grav sec­tions and de­liv­ers a slug of thrust sim­ply for bump­ing into other racers or the pin­ball-style bumpers that of­ten dot these sec­tions. It’s far from the bal­ance-ru­in­ing calamity it may seem on paper, and usu­ally favours the faster, or at least more ag­gres­sive, kart in much the same way clat­ter­ing into an op­po­nent with your wheels planted on the ground does. But with spin boost, there’s a good chance both par­ties will re­ceive a speed in­crease, mean­ing it must be strung to­gether with other tech­niques in your reper­toire to be ef­fec­tive.

And if driv­ing skill fails you, you can al­ways fire off a vol­ley of Red Shells. Mario Kart 8 in­tro­duces three new items (if you don’t count the up­graded Lucky Seven, which be­comes Lucky Eight here). The Boomerang works as ex­pected and can be flung three times at, or ahead of, other racers to stall them; the Pi­ranha Plant plonks gnash­ing green­ery on the bon­net of your kart and gives you a boost ev­ery time it chomps a coin or op­po­nent; and the Su­per Horn emits a shock wave around you, send­ing karts fly­ing and de­flect­ing pro­jec­tiles – yes, that in­cludes the Spiny Shell.

Con­trol op­tions have been broad­ened, too. Now you can choose to steer us­ing the D-pad, or even han­dle the throt­tle and brake via the right ana­logue stick. In ad­di­tion, mo­tion con­trols – us­ing ei­ther the GamePad or Wii Re­mote with steer­ing wheel at­tach­ment – fi­nally feel like an ef­fec­tive way to play. We tried both mo­tioncon­trol schemes on the tough 150cc races and man­aged to win with each one. It’s worth not­ing, how­ever, that the heft of the GamePad makes it feel slightly less re­spon­sive than the lighter wheel.

Mario Kart 7’ s pen­chant for al­ter­na­tive routes is re­tained, with some of the tracks branch­ing re­peat­edly out in front of you like a fam­ily tree. The glider and un­der­wa­ter pro­pel­ler trans­for­ma­tions are both given new life by weight­ier han­dling, but join­ing them is the new anti­grav trans­for­ma­tion, which sees karts tuck their wheels up like a DeLorean time ma­chine when­ever you pass over a glow­ing blue strip. It comes with the abil­ity to stick to walls or in­verted sec­tions of track, and this has done for Mario Kart what Galaxy’s re­jec­tion of tra­di­tion did for the 3D plat­former: free­ing course de­sign­ers from ad­her­ing to the bor­ing rules of grav­ity and re­sult­ing in lo­cales of spec­tac­u­lar imag­i­na­tion.

Shy Guy Falls takes place in a rocky canyon and be­gins in a com­par­a­tively re­strained man­ner. Then the track de­tours straight up a huge wa­ter­fall and twists back on it­self to send you plum­met­ing down, fling­ing you into the air to glide to safety just be­fore you hit the foam­ing plunge pool at its base. At one point dur­ing Bowser’s Cas­tle, you have to avoid its owner’s fists as he looms over the track, pum­melling the road­way and send­ing rip­ples down its length be­fore a stom­achchurn­ing turn sends you down­wards and be­tween his legs. Mount Wario, mean­while, sees you de­scend a snow-cov­ered moun­tain that takes in a slalom, a ski­jump and a side­ways dash across the face of a dam along the way. If Mario Kart 7’ s new tracks made older cir­cuits feel some­what pla­nar, then Mario Kart 8’ s makes them feel pos­i­tively one-di­men­sional. On later tracks, al­ter­na­tive paths of­fer a choice be­tween rub­ber and anti­grav­ity, an ad­di­tion that’s par­tic­u­larly wel­come in the re­jigged Toad’s Turn­pike, where you’re able to hop on the wall and cir­cum­vent the traf­fic. Mario Kart 64’ s di­vi­sive track is still yawn­ingly wide, but for the most part Nin­tendo’s de­sign­ers have kept cir­cuits tight and fraught.

You can take the time to ap­pre­ci­ate their work free from the stress of fend­ing off at­tacks in Mario Kart TV, a high­light reel that you can choose to watch af­ter each race. The ac­tion can be slowed down or sped up us­ing the sticks, and you can tweak the set­tings to make MKTV fo­cus on dif­fer­ent things, such as items, drift­ing or hits. You can also choose which driv­ers to fea­ture (it will de­fault to in­clud­ing ev­ery­one who com­peted), and set the clip to last for 30, 45 or 60 sec­onds, or to play out the en­tire race.

Whichever al­go­rithms are at work be­hind the scenes, MKTV has a keen eye for drama. Dur­ing one re­play, the cam­era fo­cuses on the banana skin gripped by Mario as we bar­rel around a banked cor­ner. Once thrown, the cam­era sticks with the weaponised peel as Mario dis­ap­pears from frame, only to cut to Peach, pulling fo­cus as she runs into it. We slow the ac­tion man­u­ally at this point to bask in her tum­bling de­feat. An­other play­back sees the cam­era switch­ing its at­ten­tion from Yoshi’s kart to the Red Shell we loosed, be­fore a fade cut to the same shell a sec­ond away from

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.