Mario Kart 8 was announced at Nintendo’s E3 Nintendo Direct broadcast and is set to bring even more variety in the way the game is played. Various different features from previous Mario Kart titles have been thrown into the mix to try and stir up a series that’s close to becoming stale. We managed to grab a hands-on of the game at Nintendo’s Post E3 event in London and here’s what we thought.
Located in it’s own little area along side Super Mario 3D World stood three demo’s of Mario Kart 8 that surprisingly enough didn’t have anyone playing it. I was pretty excited to get hands-on with this game because I love the Mario Kart series it’s a long lived classic that in my opinion doesn’t need to change.
I along with my wife grabbed a controller and jumped right into one of the events available in the demo. I had the Wii U GamePad, my wife had the standard Wiimote with the steering wheel peripheral. First off let me point out that the environments were stunning. It’s probably the last thing you’re looking at whilst playing this game, but as the countdown loomed I took a second to take in the bright and fluid surroundings, before I knew it we were off, by this time I’d forgotten about the warm up which gives you a boost – probably because I spent too long looking at the trees?
I played as Mario in the traditional Kart that we’re all used to, my wife on the other hand played as Peach who was riding a motorbike, that’s right – the bikes are back! The game played ridiculously well in split-screen. There was no sign of any lag nor was the quality lowered to compensate for the split-screen feature. A lot was happening too, it was a really pleasurable experience.
Before I knew it I found myself being thrown into the first new feature for Mario Kart 8 – Anti Gravity. At first I didn’t notice it until I started to lose control and the fact that my Kart’s tires had turned sideways. Driving upside down isn’t too different from right side up, the Kart does drive a little differently but it’s not too noticeable. The only times it really messes with your head is when you enter and leave the upside down track and when you ride on the wall – yep, that’s a possibility too.
You’re probably used to Mario Kart tracks having various different routes for you to travel, well the same rules apply here but this time as well as the boring shortcuts you can actually ride along the walls if the level permits, it’s actually a really fun experience that’s executed perfectly. Leaving the anti-gravity tracks is really fluid too there’s no lag between your Kart switching between the two modes, you can really just concentrate on racing which is the main point of the game right?
Another great feature is the gliders, occasionally you’ll find yourself coming towards a huge ramp, once you’ve jumped a fancy little air glider pops out of your vehicle and you glide along the track. I found the gliders close to impossible to control and I ended up careering into a giant Goomba tower more than once. Impossible or not though it was a lot of fun. That’s one thing I found from playing this game, even getting knocked from first place to sixth I didn’t once get annoyed, if anything it added to my competitiveness.
There was also an under water section in the center of one of the tracks which involved your Kart turning into some sort of propeller powered submarine Kart. This also enabled skeleton fish to get in your way so you had to keep on your toes!
I can’t speak for how the Wiimote held up with Mario Kart 8 but I can talk about the Wii U GamePad. I really enjoyed using the GamePad it felt really nice to hold and wasn’t too heavy when trying to use it as a steering wheel. The GamePads screen hasn’t really been utilised that well though with a huge red beeper in the center and a couple of stats either side like the players positions. Obviously you’re not going to be staring at the GamePads screen too often, but it could be used a little better. For those of you who aren’t a fan of driving using a floating steering wheel there is the option to change the controls in favour of the GamePads analogue sticks – though I felt this gave me an unfair advantage.
Overall Mario Kart 8 was a really fun and memorable experience. Though it’s chocked full of different features it doesn’t stray too far from the Mario Kart experience we’re all used to – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” that’s the only real way I can describe it. It handles split screen multiplayer really well and the level designs are pure brilliance. Mario Kart 8 really utilises what the Wii U can offer in terms of handing really vibrant and fast paced graphics.
Mario Kart 8 is scheduled for release on the Wii U in Spring of 2014.