Mario Kart 8 Review on Nintendo Wii U

This entertaining Wii U exclusive motors through multiple modes on the way to a satisfying racing experience. Mario Kart 8 continues a grand tradition in the game series with racing, friendly thwarting, and performance boosts featuring Gamepad play (as a second screen), outstanding graphics, and gameplay highlight sharing all in impressively colorful HD graphics.

Developers continuing expanding this highly popular game series with amazing, gravity-defying moves, detailed courses, and fun multiplayer experiences. Each Nintendo game system thankfully has a Mario Kart installment (eight total including Mario Kart 8) – a testament to this highly rated game series and the enhancements/nostalgia that veteran players can enjoy when playing Mario Kart 8 that any aged player can enjoy.

MarioKart8

The Hype

  • Race along walls and upside-down on twisting anti-gravity racetracks!
  • Share highlight videos of your greatest moments with friends via the Mario Kart TV feature and Miiverse.
  • Race and battle with friends locally or connect online to play with random players from around the world.
  • Fan favorite features from past Mario Kart games include gliders, underwater racing, motorbikes, mid-air tricks, and more.
  • Crisp HD graphics and fluid animation offers players the most visually stunning Mario Kart yet!

The Reality

New Features

Sixteen brand new tracks include ancient ruins, castles and airports (the other 16 of 32 tracks are redesigned). Spin boost lets players drive on ceiling and walls then nudge specific objects or other racers for a special speed boost, which adds fun new physics and strategy elements.

New characters include Baby Rosalina, Pink Gold Peach and all seven of Bowser’s Koopalings while returning characters include Mario, Luigi, Metal Mario, Shy Guy, Princess Peach, and Lakitu.

New items are the relatively self-explanatory piranha plant and boomerang flower. The plant attacks anything close to it and attaches to the vehicle front. Players even get a speed boost when it leans forward. The flower stuns multiple rivals in one throw then returns to players for a maximum of three throws.

Players can also pick up a Crazy Eight for eight items while the super horn defends against the blue spiny shell or attacks anything close to it.

The 16 new courses are great. Moo Moo Meadows (from Mario Kart Wii) works great for novice players and joins the additional 16 reimagined courses like Donut Plains (Super Mario Kart) and Toad’s Turnpike (Mario Kart 64).

Game Modes

The 12 player online racing works relatively well. Be sure to optimize your Internet connection to avoid getting bounced out of regional or worldwide games. Great competitive gameplay is always available in this mode, but messaging notifications would have been nice here. Tournament setups are available complete with customized schedules and rules.

Split screen gameplay and local multiplayer mode for up to four players really creates some great moments.

Mario Kart 8 has eight Grand Prix events where players culminate points among four races to determine the winner who earns new characters and other items. Grand Prix classes are 50cc, 100cc and 150cc with cc representing computer-controlled rival drivers. The higher the number, the higher the difficulty and racing demands.

Time Trials are the best way to learn the tracks plus players can track their progress with pace racers based on their own performances (using graphics silhouettes or “ghosts”) or a friend’s performances.

Battle Mode consists on hitting other’s players balloons attached to their vehicle beginning with a total of six. It is a nice equalizer for players talented in other areas besides speed and showcases their handling skills. This mode also allows for some great exploration because players can view what other players are doing and learn new strategies.

The vehicles provide great entertainment while developers capture the physics well so players have realistic control response. Gliders, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and uniquely transforming modified vehicles help players in land, sea and air.

Vehicle creation branches into three areas:  body type, wheels, and aerial assistance types on big jumps, which can result in considerable time gains. Players who purchase and register Mario Kart 8 on Club Nintendo before July 31, 2014 can take advantage of the free Wii U game promo where players get a free download code for one of four selected Wii U games (North America and Europe).

Free downloadable content includes a Mercedes-Benz GLA with more content hopefully coming soon.

Controls

Player can use the following control schemes:

  • Wii U GamePad (also in second screen mode – perfect when others are using the television screen)
  • Wii U Pro Controller
  • Wii Classic Controller
  • Wii Wheel
  • Wii Remote and Nunchuk

Players can look for compatibility with the upcoming Amiibo figures(also coming to other Wii U games).

The dual analog sticks create a unique scheme where players move the right stick forward to accelerate and reverse. It’s worth a try though most players will likely permanently stay on the acceleration button.

Players will have fun mastering flying, drifting, sliding, jumping, and various gadget gear. The considerable challenge level overwhelms at time though players always have Lakitu in a floating air vehicle to move players back into play with a crane.

Graphics/Sound

The high-definition graphics help this racing game (and any other) for so many reasons. The sharp graphics make shortcuts and alternate paths relatively easy to spot while the special blue strips prompt special physics and gear.

Players can get an extra thrill or excitement from the gravity-defying, rollercoaster-like scenarios or from a simple rainbow or sunspot. Occasionally the tracks are so awe-inspiring that players can miss important details that take them right off the track and cause some minor frustration.

This improved quality gameplay benefits the entire game. Fans cheering have great detail. The fireworks have booming sound to match the sharp colors. The water drops look like they are really on the screen as they slowly fade away.

The water and mud wear on the roads, but not necessarily the vehicles, which could be a future degradation opportunity when using special powers or customization strategies (using special gear). The sparks literally fly when karts drift too long, but never seem to adversely affect performance much. In a music first for this game series, an orchestra and live performers are featured on selected courses.

Sharing

Mario TV represents a specialized area where players edit their own highlight sequences (a.k.a. reels), edit then upload them to the Miiverse or YouTube (account required).

In the playback option, the slow motion feature raises an even higher appreciation of the high quality graphics. Players can also rewind, fast forward and expand the viewing to a full screen from the initial screen where a crowd of Miis watch and react from the bottom of the screen. Players can also download friends’ or featured players’ ghost data (silhouette graphic of player during previous race). Players can also share earned stamps for various achievements on Miiverse.

Developed and published by Nintendo, Mario Kart 8 delights in so many ways. Players have already latched onto Luigi’s “death stare”, a unique look that occurs as he hurls obstacles at other characters in the game.

Gamepad play (as a second screen), outstanding graphics, and gameplay highlight sharing all in impressively colorful HD graphics. A highly recommended game that has already helped revitalize Wii U sales and has a continuing future of enhancements like additional downloadable content and Nintendo’s upcoming Ammibo figurines.

Mario Kart 8

MSRP: $59.99 (Amazon, Best Buy and other stores)

What I Like: amazing physics, HD graphics, music soundtrack, anti-gravity elements, sound, race track design, anti-gravity actions, local/online multiplayer gameplay, rewarding challenges, music soundtrack, upcoming Ammibo figurines/DLC, free WiiU game deal (register game before 7/31/14)

What Needs Improvement: online elements, a few confusing tracks

Source: Reviewer copy provided by publisher