Before I even begin, I just want to say upfront how much fun this game is. It’s fun. I mean really, really fun. This, like no other game, reminds me of why I became interested in games growing up. The colours, the gameplay, the sitting on the edge of your seat and laughing along with someone in split screen mode. It’s a joy to play.
The basic gameplay remains the same as ever. You play as a character from the Marioverse (or a few bonus characters such as Link or Inkling Girl – this is the Deluxe edition after all), ride a little car and try to come first in the race. The standard game modes such as Grand Prix, Time Trials, VS Race and Battle reappear. Of course, the features that define Mario Kart games are present here too. You’ve got boosts, shortcuts and boxes that can grant you a number of different power ups to help you overcome the most unlikely of odds.
All of the usual suspects are present. “So what?” I hear you say, “this is supposed to be the Deluxe Edition of Mario Kart 8. What else has it got to offer?”. Well dear friends, the simple answer is – a lot more. 48 course and 42 characters ‘more’. The 200cc option ‘more’. A completely revamped battle mode ‘more’.
The 200cc mode is just plain crazy. It’s so unbelievably fast and unforgiving that when you first start playing it you’ll be completely overwhelmed by how demanding it is. Then, something very strange happens. You just get good at it. Your hands seem to know what they’re doing with no input from your brain and you’ll find yourself flying up the pecking order in no time. Not only that, but you won’t be able to go back to the lower levels of difficulty without thinking things are moving incredibly slowly. It’s a worthy edition to the roster.
Even though the 200cc mode is fantastic, the revamped battle mode is the real star attraction here. For anyone unfamiliar with battle mode, there are a number of different objectives to complete but you’re basically playing really aggressively against other players and there is no race going on.
There are now five battle modes to choose from including Shine Thief, Balloon Battle, Renegade Roundup, Bob-omb blast and Coin Runners. They’re all fun and worth spending time with but the stand out battles are Shine Thief and Bob-omb blast. In Shine Thief all players start by racing to collect the ‘Shine’, that when collected you must hold onto for a set amount of time. The Shine can be stolen from you by other players using power-ups to knock the Shine off you. There is nothing more terrifying than having multiple players hunt you down during a game of Shine Thief. Trust me, you have to experience it to believe it. In Bob-omb blast every box gives you a Bob-omb and you can carry multiple Bob-ombs at a time. Your objective is to blow up other players and pop their balloons for points. To make it more interesting the Bob-ombs go off almost straight away when thrown – cue carnage.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was made for playing with friends and I’m pleased to be able to say the online execution of this is really smooth and straightforward. It’s also a real treat that the split screen mode works well too – especially as you don’t need to dish out for any extra controllers if you’re just playing with one other person. The Joy-Cons (shudder) when playing two-player local co-op are actually my preferred way to play.
I can’t finish this review without pointing out how great Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looks. There’s a noticeable difference between this version and the original for WiiU. It’s incredibly crisp on the Switch screen and only seems slightly less so when linked to the TV. The colours and the art direction really make this a joy to look at.