Yesterday I was given the opportunity to play Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. I have been excitedly waiting to hear how good it was before pushing myself to buy the console and after playing the game, I definitely have a solid opinion on the quality of the game and my desire for a Wii U. I’ll TRY to keep this post fairly brief and save a more intimate and detailed post for a later review of the game. Being afforded the opportunity to play Mario Kart 8 before release was a pretty neat experience. Originally allotted time to sample two tracks and two characters, I ended up getting double the time and experienced four of both. Starting up the game, you can see the effort put in to create a beautiful experience. The menus are slick and things look streamlined – it’s a positive in my book, as I want to be able to jump in the game and get going immediately.
The character menu looks awesome (it’s what I wish Smash Bros. menus looked like) – once again, it’s clean and slick, but it impressed me. The graphics look great as the character appears while you scroll through the roster. If the Wii U had the graphics of its competitors, my eyes would probably melt from the beauty. My only issue is the actual roster! The design team made some terrible decisions on characters to include and exclude. The obviously bad calls were Metal Mario and Pink Gold Peach. They simply do not make any sense to include. I would’ve much preferred Funky Kong, Diddy Kong, or Birdo. The other unexplainable additions were SO. MANY. BABIES. I understand Baby Mario, Luigi, and possibly Peach are their own characters at this point, but Baby Daisy and Rosalina just seem like bad calls. Once again, other characters should have been added. With the recent release of Tropical Freeze, more Kongs just seems like a missed opportunity. I love the addition of the Koopalings. They are all fun and unique additions that bring back some fan favorites. I’d sacrifice them for more variety though.
OK. OK. I get it…you want to know about what I actually got to play…
I selected Lemmy as my first racer. I enjoyed customizing my vehicle and selected a standard kart with fairly standard equipment – there are a lot of interesting customization options, but I can see some complaining that it is still not a deep addition to the series. My first track was Water Park and as you might have guessed, it was beautiful. The theme was a neat amusement and water park and it had to be one of the better, if not best, looking track I played. It was a unique and fun environment to race around on. The track gave me a sample of every type of course (kart, underwater, flight, and anti-gravity). I really enjoyed the anti-gravity elements and it was a cool sight to see racers ahead of me go up a wall. My only complaint would be the flight. It slows down the race a little too much to my liking, but it didn’t last long in this race.
Next up was Yoshi on the Toad Harbor level. As I live in San Francisco, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my current location. It was probably the most diverse course, with a lot of different turns and interesting path choices and I enjoyed riding up the anti-gravity wall as I swerved to avoid an oncoming trolley car. I rode a bike for the race and I actually enjoyed the different feeling the bike gave me. Slight differences make the vehicle changes interesting and worthwhile to try.
My third course was Sunshine Airport, another great locale with interesting challenges to its course. I played as Donkey Kong on a quad-like vehicle. The course had some great environmental challenges, such as swerving around a plane loading luggage and riding along a conveyer belt, but once again, I just had an issue with the flight. I don’t know if I was missing something or picked a bad glider, but the flight seems to slow down the race a lot. Luckily on this course, it’s downward flight and the momentum picks up quickly again.
The final course I was able to play was Cloudtop Cruise. Probably the most awe-inspiring course I saw, the feeling of being “in the clouds” really showed and gave me a great sendoff to my time spent playing Mario Kart 8. I played as Ludwig, but unfortunately, nothing I selected could’ve saved my disdain for the flight again. At one point, you fly for a fairly decent amount of time and without really knowing it, my kart had sunk under the course and I “fell out of the world”. I was restored to the course and figured out what I did wrong the second lap. I feel like I may be trashing the flight more than it deserves and four races is not enough time to really get the hang of the handling of flight in-game. After some more time with the game, my tune may change, but as it stands, the flight is a detracting and sometimes annoying portion of an otherwise fantastic game.
Overall, the game is not just a cash-grab rehash of previous Mario Karts like another franchise we all know, but a solid entry to the classic series at a time when the Wii U needs a hit. I love the courses so far, am moderately pleased with the roster of racers, and am EXTREMELY excited to pick up a Wii U sometime soon. Kart will be one of my first purchases for the system and if anyone else is still on the fence about the Wii U, now could be the time to invest – especially with the new Mario Kart 8 bundle coming out alongside release of the game.
Look forward to a full review of Mario Kart 8 on 4P Games soon!
If any of you have had the chance to play Mario Kart 8, what did you think? Will you guys be picking it up? Let us know in the comments and on the forums!