Arguably one of the biggest names in the Wii U’s forthcoming line-up, Mario Kart 8 has been given the difficult task of bridging the gap between the frequently berated Mario Kart Wii and the critically acclaimed Mario Kart 7. With such a well loved property it seems to be proving difficult to satisfy both the core demographic and Nintendo’s more casual audience, but Mario Kart 8 is most certainly having a stab at doing just that.
The preview build available to Electronic Theatre featured just three courses, but even in this small slice of action it was easy to see how Nintendo hope to orive that they can please everyone at once. Mario Kart 8 takes the finest pieces of each title in the Mario Kart puzzle and brings them together with a high-definition (HD) makeover, In terms of visual quality Mario Kart 8’s closest comparison is undoubtedly Mario Kart GP, the arcade series based on the franchise distributed by Namco Bandai. The characters and the environments are big and bold, striking in the solid colours and detailed in their animations. This is the visual design gamers dreamed of with the arrival of the original Super Mario Kart coupled with the immediate and accessible handling the series has become famous for.
Using the GamePad gives players the option to switch between tilt control and analogue stick simply by clicking the stick in – even mid-race – striving to satisfy the demands of a wildly varied audience. Twelve characters where playable in this build, all of which using either a bike or mart by default with no option to choose your preferred type of vehicle. Of course, all the boost cornering, mid-air tricks and weapon attacks/defensive manoeuvres return, alongside the all new anti-gravity gameplay.
Essentially a gloss coat for alternative routes, the anti-gravity gameplay doesn’t really add anything to Mario Kart aside from another reason to explore the tracks. In that resides Mario Kart 8’s greatest strength: the sheer number of alternative routes and hidden paths in just the three races Electronic Theatre dominated eclipse all other Mario Kart titles without a shadow of a doubt. If the rest of the selection is as densely populated as the Mario Circuit, Galaxy Air and Boo House tracks presented here, Mario Kart 8 will surely be the most variable Mario Kart experience Nintendo has yet offered.
There’s still much to learn about Mario Kart 8 – the usability of new weapon types, the default touchscreen display (currently offering the player the chance to switch between horn and map) and the differences between each of the playable characters and their vehicles, but even on this small slice of gameplay Mario Kart 8 has proven to be a tense and captivating experience. Hopes are high that Nintendo can convince both casual and core demographics that the entire videogame can provide this depth in its comical racing action.