"Mario Kart 8" is still all about racing friends in a chaotic battle for first place. That old form of fun is present, but this latest edition fails to drive the series forward with meaningful change.
Rating 3.5 out of 5
A Safe Ride Upside Down - Mario Kart 8 Review
Mario Kart 8 is a strange game. Embattled publisher Nintendo seems to have put in a lot of effort into the title to save their flailing console (and their financial situation, too), but at the same time they have simply cheaped out in some baffling areas.
While the game runs at a silky-smooth 60fps in single-player mode, it appears the Kyoto developers were not able to hit that target in multiplayer. Which is a shame because the game really shines at 60fps, but the power of the Wii U being what it is, such a sacrifice is unavoidable.
The game is certainly fun, and while the no-longer-Bowser's-kids Koopalings make their first appearance in the franchise, inclusions like Pink Gold Peach will leave hard-core fans scratching their heads. Overall, though, the inclusion of the upside down mechanic is shallow at best, and the rehashed gliding and underwater mechanics from Mario Kart 7 remain as dull and gimmicky as ever. It's really just more of the same.
Speaking of features I didn't like about Mario Kart 7, the coins to unlock Kart (& now Bikes - because bikes were brought back for some reason) parts is back. I hate this mechanic - just let me use all the games features from the first time I play. It's a completely old-fashioned design element on the Japanese developers part, cynically included to keep players playing well beyond where they might otherwise have stopped.
The tracks themselves are bright and colorful, like you'd expect from a Nintendo game. It will certainly appeal to young audiences and families. There are lots of hidden details throughout the tracks that the hardest of the hardcore Nitnendo fans (those who are left, anyway) will be delighted by. The remade tracks look practically unrecognizable and brought up many happy memories of my times playing Mario Kart 64 as a child. Although, it did feel a little as though Nintendo were trying to take advantage of my nostalgia for the older games.
Mario Kart TV is a nice addition, but feels limited in some ways. Youtube uploading is nice, but opens up questions about why it's not a system-wide feature. The game does not support voice chat, well, not during races, anyway, which is also disappointing for a major game in 2014.
The orchestrated music is a nice touch and I found myself bobbing my head to some tracks while racing through as Baby Daisy. Rainbow Road 64's remix is a particular highlight.
Overall, the biggest disappointment is the Game Pad. It is completely unused in any meaningful way in this title and I can't help but feel that a redesign of the Wii U is coming any moment without a Game Pad included.
Mario Kart 8 is a fun retread through the Mario universe that, while not justifying the Game Pad, is a welcome addition to the starved gamers who already own a Wii U at home. For the rest of us, though, it's probably best to have a look at some gameplay before deciding whether or not this game is really worth it for you to take the plunge and purchase a Wii U console.