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Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit

Posted by GG Goblin On October - 27 - 2020

Nintendo have performed their magic again.

 
At this point it is pretty obvious that Nintendo have their own wizards department. Time and again their new ideas, which often start off seeming a little odd, turn out to be nothing short of magic. However, the latest idea is magic right off the bat. Remote control cars are cool. A remote control car with a built in camera is even better. A remote control car, controlled by the Nintendo Switch, with a camera that displays onto the Switch screen, or the TV, and makes use of augmented reality to bring home made tracks to life, well, that is the stuff of dreams.

 


 
It is a surprisingly simple idea, which is a common thread in many of Nintendo’s ideas. By purchasing a Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit kit, which comes in Mario or Luigi options, the player will get a nicely made kart featuring either Mario or Luigi, a cable, and a collection of cardboard. Don’t panic, this is not a Labo project. The cardboard pieces are easily unfolded into four gates and some barriers. With these few objects, the player is able to design and race their own tracks in real world settings, such as their very own living room.

 
So, let’s start at the beginning. The main thing out of the box is the kart itself. This is very solid and incredibly well made, with the colour scheme of either Mario or Luigi depending on which version is bought. Above the plumber sitting in the driving seat is a camera, which is responsible for all of the magic, and there is a sliding panel on one side that reveals a USB-C port for charging. Best to plug it in while preparing everything else.

 


 
Also in the box are four gates and a couple of unfoldable barriers. These are again well made, but being cardboard may not last so long with heavy hands. Arguably the most important thing is the software, which can be downloaded for free from the eShop on Switch. Once the software is downloaded, turn on the kart and show the Switch to the camera to connect them. Now it’s fun time.

 
The user will be given the chance to practice controlling the kart straight away. The controls on the Switch work exactly as you would expect, but it takes a little getting used to watching the action on the screen rather than just watching the kart zip around the floor. Once used to, the player will then learn how to set up a track. This involves placing the gates and then driving through them in order, painting the track in-between. This gives the player plenty of options in their track layout, depending on how much room they have.

 
Once the track is laid out, the proper gaming can begin. This is where the magic of AR comes in as although the player is potentially only racing around their living room or kitchen, what they see on the screen could include all manner of interesting visuals, from opponent racers to on-track hazards. This brings the game to life and makes it feel much more like a proper Mario Kart game.

 


 
Playing solo, there are time trials that will allow the player to race against the ghost of a previous run, or there are the Grand Prix events in which the player competes against AI racers that appear on the screen. Items can be picked up along the way to use on opponents or for some advantage, such as a burst of speed, and coins can be collected to unlock cosmetic items that can personalise the experience and gives a good reason to keep coming back. Although the tracks are limited to the players’ imagination and circumstances, there is otherwise plenty of content here.

 
But nothing can compare to actually racing in the real world with other players. Although multiplayer fun can be had by taking turns with the time trials, the real star would have to be getting up to four of these karts, and four Switchs, together. Obviously this would be a big ask as the kit is not exactly cheap, but with the right location, this would be so much fun.

 
Okay, back to reality. First up, it has to be said that the connection distance seems quite good, staying connected as the kart zipped out of the living room and through to the far side of the kitchen. My house is not large enough to truly test the connection, and experiences will differ depending on the strength of the Wi-Fi signal and the layout of the house. But I was impressed. I was also impressed that the kart seemed to cope quite nicely with the short pile carpet in the living room. Of course the kart moved quicker on the tiled floor, but considering the low coverage of the kart it had no problem whatsoever with carpet. When it comes to laying out the track, the larger the room, the better. This could potentially cause some issues, but even with a small room there is fun to be had.

 


 
The kart handles very much like the karts do in Mario Kart games, which is cool. The player will be able to race at different speeds once they are unlocked, from 50cc to 200cc, and each of these actually give the kart a different speed in the real world. The higher speed will cause some issues for tracks laid out in smaller rooms, but otherwise it is all very nicely done. Mushrooms will give the kart a speed boost as well, and there is even a drift-like mechanic built in.

 
The downsides to playing a video game in the real world are the limitations of that world. Not everyone will have the room to lay out huge, exciting tracks, and even with a decent room size it will involve a certain amount of setting up and potentially moving furniture before the fun can begin. And let’s not forget putting the dog or cat away as it turns out they are not so keen on plumbers in go-karts. The amount of fun to be had with Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit really does depend on circumstances. The other problem is the price. At just shy of £100, it is some pricey kit. Really, considering the technology here it is not that pricey, but it is still nearly £100. And for multiplayer racing, £200 or so, or more. It’s a slippy slope. But if you have £100 to spend on AR gaming fun, this is the stuff of dreams.

 


 
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is something really special and Nintendo could take this in so many different ways. It makes excellent use of augmented reality and provides a full Mario Kart experience with a twist. Above all else though, this is the stuff of childhood dreams, sparking the imaginations of both children and adults alike. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is yet more Nintendo magic.

 

 ★★★★★★★★★☆ 



 

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