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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Switch

I had thought that Mario Kart 8 was as close to perfect as the series could get, but it turns out I was wrong because Mario Kart 8 Deluxe manages to improve upon it. Wii U owners, such as myself, may be frustrated that they’re getting a re-release rather than a new game, but I’ve seen Mario Kart 8 take-off on the Switch on a way it never did, or ever really could, on the Wii U.

I won’t talk about the general handling or the tracks or anything like that, because I’ve already covered that in my review for the original game ( and the two DLC packs, which are included here ( & Suffice it to say that the handling is perfect and the tracks diverse, exciting and wonderful.

I’ll focus instead on what is added. I’ll begin with one of the most controversial additions, the introduction of ‘smart steering’ to keep you from falling off the tracks and an auto accelerate option. Some people (utter pricks) have criticised their introduction, saying that it ‘plays the game for you.’ Having these features on do not give you any real advantage, as you will always skip shortcuts and never really power slide or boost effectively. You might win in single player 50CC matches but that’s basically it and I don’t think anyone will consider that to be the core Mario Kart experience. It is something which allows the very young, or perhaps disabled gamers, to access and enjoy the game. How anyone could view this as a bad thing is beyond me. However, one tiny niggle is that the smart steering is put on automatically when you start, and this isn’t really indicated to you. It should default to off and then need to be turned on, not the other way around. This is literally the biggest flaw in the game by the way.

There are a couple of interesting changes to the core gameplay from the original. The first is the ability to hold two items at once, Double Dash style. In practice it doesn’t really change things too much, but it’s something nice to differentiate itself from the original product. I suspect that the more significant change will be the introduction of a third level of boost on the power slide, this time sending up purple sparks. The tracks aren’t designed for its use, with few corners lasting long enough to activate it, but the boost is massive and it feels amazing when you do pull it off. Neither of these changes mess with the almost perfect mechanics of the original game, but offer something a bit different nonetheless.

Easily the biggest difference in the re-introduction of a proper Battle Mode, which has been somewhat neglected after it’s arguable heyday in Mario Kart 64. There are plenty of different modes, from the classic balloon battle to the shine catching game from Double Dash. There are new courses too, with the most striking being one based on Splatoon, complete with soundtrack. The Inkling boy and girl are also introduced as racers in this game. The new Battle Mode rounds out and expands an already rewarding package.

All said though, the best addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is more a function of the Switch console than the game itself. Portable, instant local multiplayer is a game changer. The Switch’s appeal may not be as immediately obvious as the Wii’s, but I think this feature is a system seller. Each player can use a separate Joycon to split0screen race, anywhere you go. The single Joycon isn’t the most comfortable controller in the world and I don’t think anyone will be preferring it to a Pro Controller, but it does work, much better than you might expect. I’m not a fan of online gaming generally; I love multiplayer, but I usually only get that rush of excitement when I’m in the room with whoever I’m competing. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe shows me a vision of a bright future for local multiplayer, something which for many years has been steadily dying.

As a final point, I’ll share a video of what I was doing on Saturday night. For clarity’s sake, I’m the guy who’s amazing at Mario Kart, not the guy who’s amazing at rapping. I’m a good rapper at best. This guy is called Mega Ran by the way and he’s great, go see him. Support independent musicians.

I love this console and I love this game. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is essential.



Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2 for Wii U

So, Nintendo pretty much win at DLC right? Now that both are released I am struggling to think of any company that has released a better value pack than this. Containing eight new tracks and three new characters, this DLC Pack easily matches the first one.

As with the previous pack, this one contains four retro tracks and four new ones. The retro tracks are a good bunch, with me being particularly pleased with the return of my beloved Baby Park from Double Dash, which is very much the Final Destination of Mario Kart tracks. Another stand out is Ribbon Road, a fairly forgettable track from Super Circuit that is reimagined as a genuinely stunning track taking place in a child’s bedroom. The new tracks are excellent, of course, with the most immediately noticeable being the Animal Crossing track on which this DLC is based (which changes with the seasons) and a new F-Zero track based on the classic Big Blue. The new characters of male and female Animal Crossing Villagers, Isabelle from the same game and the surprisingly awesome Dry Bowser round out a hell of a pack.

Even though it was actually part of a free update (thanks for that Nintendo), I want to touch upon the new 200CC speed. It does more than just speed up the experience, it completely changes the way you approach the tracks. To be completely honest, it doesn’t really work; it’s clear very quickly that the tracks are designed for 150CC and that the natural rhythms of Mario Kart are lost. However, I think that 200CC is a fantastic addition. It may be a bit of a goof to try a few times for a laugh with friends, but it’s amazing that Nintendo gave us that and they really didn’t need to. The free update combined with very good value DLC once again show up other companies in comparison to Nintendo.

Mario Kart 8, particularly in the one or two player 60FPS, is possibly the most gorgeous game of this console generation and the new tracks are just as delightful and packed with detail as those in the main game. The music is wonderful and the animations for the new characters adorable. The core mechanics in Mario Kart 8 are the best in the series, but it’s also the most beautiful.

Putting aside nostalgia blindness, it’s hard to dispute Mario Kart 8 as the peak of the series and this DLC only makes it better. If Nintendo manage to bring this level of value to Smash Bros. I think I may cry. If you liked Mario Kart 8, get these two packs. Simple.


Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack One for Wii U

Ok, hyperbole time. This is the best value DLC ever released. Let’s do some maths. New, Mario Kart 8 cost about £40. There are 32 tracks in the game. Since the tracks are the main draw, let’s call that about £10 for 8 tracks. This DLC and the next (which will be released sometime in the spring next year) can be bought together for £11. There are 8 tracks in each DLC so 16 tracks overall. A reasonable amount to charge would be about £20, since these DLCs contain about half again the content of the full game. Instead, we get both for a little over half that. Maths alone is reason enough to buy it.

This DLC pack adds two new cups, the Egg Cup and the Triforce Cup, all of which are replete with the usual stuff like the different CC speeds and Mirror Mode. The eight new tracks include three classic levels; the original SNES Rainbow Road, Yoshi Circuit from Mario Kart DS and Wario’s Gold Mine from Mario Kart Wii. These are all good tracks and it’s nice to have them back. There are also two entirely new courses; Ice Ice Outpost is a fun level of two intertwining tracks and Dragon Driftway is a slightly nauseating level which mostly takes place in anti-gravity. The real highlights are, of course, the tracks based on other Nintendo titles. Excitebike Arena is a surprisingly fun level, made up simply of a loop and jumps, which has the novel gimmick of being randomly generated every time you play. It’s the closest Mario Kart 8 gets to my beloved Baby Park from Double Dash. Mute City is an F-Zero themed level which is simple but fun, although it does just whet the appetite for an actual F-Zero game. The highlight and biggest draw of the pack is Hyrule Circuit, a Zelda themed level which sees you cross a part of Hyrule Field before entering Hyrule Castle. There are some great Zelda details, such as the mini-puzzle which sees you knocking three crystals which opens a shortcut, complete with the classic Zelda puzzle solving jingle. On top of these levels are three new characters, Link, Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach and a few new vehicles, such as the Blue Falcon and a Zelda themed bike. These are all levels showing Mario Kart at its finest.

Nintendo doesn’t half-ass stuff and this DLC is stuffed with charming detail. From the animations when Link and Tanooki Mario do a trick to the fact that the coins are replaced with rupees in Hyrule Circuit, this DLC is every bit as packed with love and attention as the main game is. The music is great, although I wish Nintendo had refrained from yet another electric guitar version of the Zelda theme; Hyrule Warriors was enough of that, thanks.

If you still play Mario Kart 8, buy this. This is how you do DLC.Mario_Kart_8_DLC_14091061197762

Mario Kart 8 for Wii U

I’m far from the only one for whom Mario Kart played a significant role in their childhood. I mean…it’s Mario Kart. It’s going to be good. Still, starting with Mario Kart Wii my interest in the series began to slip slightly. I enjoyed Mario Kart 7, but it was probably the Mario Kart game I played least. Therefore, Mario Kart 8 wasn’t necessarily one of my most hyped games. Turns out, it joins Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart DS as one of my favourite instalments, pretty much perfecting the series. It’s going to be tricky to get better than this.

Although Mario Kart 8 has its gimmicks, it doesn’t succeed because of them, it succeeds because it is one of the most perfectly put together games I’ve ever encountered, made by a clearly passionate and talented team of developers. Before thinking about the main differences, I want to make clear just how well this plays. The handling of Mario Kart games can vary a lot, but in my opinion it was at its best in Mario Kart DS…until now. Power-sliding around the courses just feels brilliant, standing as the solid base everything else is built on. The chaotic local multiplayer of Mario Kart is, of course, still the highlight, and I have had and look forward to plenty more awesome evenings getting drunk and playing this with my friends. You can play online against friends, which I like, and against strangers, which I don’t. The inherent frustration of Mario Kart is fun with pals, obnoxious with strangers, but perhaps that’s just me.

There are a few new items, such as the Piranha Plant which drags you forward in little boosts and bites nearby racers, and a new item that can even block blue shells, if timed right. Being able to block blue shells shakes things up somewhat, but the introduction of the ‘coin’, a near useless speed boost (which is also used to unlock upgrades) is the bane of first place and denies that comfortable defence that could generally be formed with bananas and green shells. This can be really frustrating when the single player gets tougher (and it does get tough towards the end), but really it just furthers the egalitarian experience that is Mario Kart. Mario Kart 8 is regularly frustrating, but similarly to Mario Party the frustration is actually an essential part of the experience, and something really core to what the series is about. It’s frustrating, but it’s the good kind of frustrating which drives you to ‘just one more race.’

The flying and underwater sections from Mario Kart 7 make a welcome return, with the new ‘anti-gravity’ sections which see Mario and co. driving up walls and boosting off each other being visually stunning and exciting, even if it doesn’t necessarily effect the gameplay too much. It’s extremely welcome though, and feels in some ways like an F-Zero influence on Mario Kart. The new courses are generally designed with these in mind, with a whole bunch of awesome new tracks. The highlight for me was the lap-less one track Mount Wario, which sees you karting all the way from a cargo plane to the bottom of a mountain. There are loads of good ones though, and no real duds. The classic tracks are cannily altered to take advantage of the flying and anti-gravity gimmicks, feeling new whilst still retaining the character of the classic tracks. There are some odd choices, with a lot of the best classic tracks having already been pilfered in previous games. Still, overall the 32 tracks you have stand as some of the best Nintendo have ever put together.

Mario Kart 8 is a pretty packed game, with the typical grand-prix single player mode, as well as time trials and plenty of unlockable characters. Nintendo phoned it in slightly with some of these (Baby Rosalina probably being the worst offender), but it doesn’t do any harm having them does it? The karts and bikes are significantly customisable, with loads of different chassis, wheels and wings for you to play around with to suit your play style. The online modes will keep people happy for a long time, and the local multiplayer will be a staple of my social group for a while…at least until Smash Bros. comes out. The lazy battle mode, which sees you racing around normal tracks rather than duking it out in distinct arenas, is an uncharacteristically unpolished addition to a game which, in every other respect, is one of the most polished games I’ve ever played.

Mario Kart 8 is possibly the most beautiful game I’ve ever played. My PS4 maybe the most powerful console in my house, but there’s not a single game on it that can rival the visuals in Mario Kart 8. Running at a smooth 60FPS, in HD, Mario Kart has never looked this beautiful. Visuals aren’t everything, but they do help, and Mario Kart is a stunning sight to behold.  This, combined with the Zelda Wii U reveal trailer, is showing just how powerful the Wii U may actually be. There’s a wonderful amount of detail in every environment and in the characters themselves. I usually never watch replays, but they’re honestly one of my favourite things about Mario Kart 8. The Luigi death stare is well documented, and the game is filled with awesome little details. The music is lovely as well, with my favourite being a track which briefly recalls the lovely Gusty Garden Galaxy music from Super Mario Galaxy. Mario Kart 8 is one of the slickest, smoothest running games you’ll ever encounter.

I can only hope that this is the game that finally begins to shift my favourite console. I like my PS4, but it’s purely there as a tool. I love my Wii U, and separately want it to be a success. Hopefully this, combined with Nintendo’s fantastic showing at E3, will finally convince people to pick one up. Mario Kart 8 is probably the best Mario Kart game ever, but it’ll almost certainly be the worst selling. That would be a true injustice to this excellent game.1b93b38b656a72a4c7b0dd91197dd715d2bf0ef1.jpg__1920x1080_q85_crop_subject_location-987,694_upscale

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