First past the chequered flag.
Mario Kart 8 on Wii U accelerates beyond previous titles in the franchise and firmly thrashes the throttle, pushing the boundaries on the next-gen console with an exciting line up of new characters and tracks, steering the classic kart video game in a new direction.
Pit your wits against eleven opponents in a bid to cross the winning line first. Avoid hazards and risk being bumped by other players, Mario Kart 8 certainly has it’s fair share of obstructions along the way. You’ll throw bananas on the track in order to send your opponent spinning in confusion, fling a shell for it to disable an opposing player and even grab a mushroom to gain a brief burst of acceleration. Snag yourself a star for a temporary dose of invincibility or even blast your opponent with some lightning to shrink them on the spot, it’s all fun and games when you’re trying to stay ahead of the pack.
Lob a bomb to blow your enemies to smithereens or fling a boomerang back and forth three times to catch your opponent off guard, it’s all a matter of trying new ways to avoid other opponents winning the top spot on the track. There are several new items to entertain and amuse you around the track, one of which is the Super Horn which generates a shock-wave to destroy items and send your enemies into a whirlwind of catastrophe and confusion. Use the piranha plant and you’ll see opponents being chomped and spat out in front of you in a split second.
Drive your vehicle of choice over gold coins scattered on the track to provide you with a consistent level of increased acceleration. You can gather up to ten of these precious coins to stay slightly ahead. In your endeavor to become the number one kart racer, you’ll find yourself being blasted by most items from oncoming players. But being hit doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be damaged and waiting for ages to recover. The game gives you adequate time to readjust after being damaged, therefore less time hanging around if you’ve been hit by a bomb or found yourself falling off a track. However, you will pay the price of three coins for this misfortune.
Driving on the new tracks is challenging at times with the new anti-gravity feature to experience, allowing you to drive on ceilings and walls. It does take a little while for the eyes to adjust and the senses to accept that you are driving on the wall, but through will and determination you find yourself enjoying the new sense as it unfolds during your journey. The gliding underwater elements of the game are truly delightful to play, allowing you to use your new vehicles in this underwater paradise filled with obstructions and hazards. Each track provides exceptionally high quality graphics and a personality of it’s own. Reflections from puddles and sunlight brimming with radiance sets the game to an impressive standard as you drive around each corner. The music on Mario Kart 8 is reminiscent of past Mario Kart titles and you’ll hear a number of remixes and familiar tunes along the way.
The single player mode provides you with plenty of new characters to play around with as well as new customization benefits and unlockables to enjoy. You’ll welcome the new characters who become unlocked and you’ll enjoy swapping out different wheels, gliders and vehicle bodies to change the dynamics of your gameplay experience. Each vehicle gives you a great choice of customizable items for your kart to not only look fantastic, but improve handling to suit your playstyle.
The tracks in Mario Kart 8 are truly stunning and you can see a major graphical overhaul when you begin the game. Driving your way through each new track is appealing to the eye as you steer your way through stunning scenery and environments bursting with colour and vibrancy.
Playing solo is a fun experience as you race against AI, but the real enjoyment begins when you team up with your friends to battle it out for first place.It’s amazing to see how quickly your competitive streak kicks in when you’re going head to head in races. As well as the general tracks and Grand Prix to enjoy in Mario Kart 8, there is a good mixture of other modes to immerse yourself in, such as Time Trials, where your drive as quickly as possible to gain your best time and even stop by Miiverse and download ghost data times from other players to beat. The Battle Mode enables you to hit other opponents as you try to pop their balloons in the required time limit. This all adds a welcome break from regular tracks and Grand Prix, providing you with some extra fun.
The online mode is essentially where the action lies, because you can play with 12 other opponents in a battle or race. Connecting to the network and finding other players to race or battle against is incredibly simple, making it easy to enjoy the multiplayer game.
Mario Kart 8 makes good use of all the controller options available, from using the standard WiiMote and Nunchuck or Pro Controller, to racing with the GamePad. The Gamepad provides some additional features such as a top down map of tracks and rankings, to pressing the touch screen interface to honk your giant horn, although honking the horn only serves the purpose of annoying other players if you tend to be a bit trigger happy. Insert cheeky face here.
Personally, hand on heart this is simply the best Mario Kart title and far exceeds all other previous titles. Mario Kart 8 gives players a good balance of the classic karting experience and new features, accelerating the gameplay and graphics to a whole new level. The single player and multiplayer modes are enjoyable, with a great line of new characters and new items to unlock. Could Mario Kart 8 be the Wii U “killer app”? Possibly. I know I would buy a Wii U to play this game. Mario Kart 8 stands atop the podium simply by out-driving all other karting games. An essential Wii U purchase!