Good thing this release has the number on the name because, frankly, after Double Dash I simply lost count. Mario Kart seems stuck in time for all the good and bad reasons anyone could think of. There's little to no room for improvements and whatever this room may be it's pretty much covered here, online gaming.
Race picturesque tracks against Nintendo's all-stars using all sorts of nonsensical items aiming for victory at all costs, that has been the premise since the beginning, and continues to be so.Nintendo got rid of some inclusions made throughout the years in favor of cohesion, like the Chain Chomps for example; it works.Items come in two forms, usable or equipable. Like the mushroom which gives a speed boost and is simply discarded afterward, or stuff like the Raccoon tail which lets you swing at enemies. Some of these equipped items are momentary, like the afore-mentioned Raccoon tail, others simply stay there like the circling shells.
The circuit quickly becomes too chaotic for its own good, I wish Nintendo would simply implement a single player mode where no items would be allowed. You can do it on multiplayer but on single player you need to deal with the abhorrent waves of blue shells every time you're in first place, as well as the rubber-band CPU which will catapult the enemies right at your tail whenever you get too good for your own well being.
There are 8 cups, each one has 4 stages within. Along the way, as it's been for a while, you can unlock the mirror mode which does exactly what you might have guessed. The first four regular cups have new tracks while the other four all feature old Mario Kart tracks for previous games. this has been a must have in the series since the first Game Boy Advance release. It's a good move because you instantly recognize these ones, also, some feature simplicity in design, like the ones found in Super Mario Kart or Mario Kart 64, which is always a good idea. In tracks so full of jumps, underwater pathways and minimal design sequences made simply to appeal the eye, simplicity comes to be welcomed.
The difficulties are the same as always, 50, 100 and 150 cc. Also known as easy, normal and challenging. Again, as long as overall difficulty goes, the differing speeds won't make much difference when the CPU can speed up the its racers whenever it feels like it. It controls fine however, they didn't go Double Dash on this one and kept the jump button, it's through jumping that the mini-turbos are performed, how it should be kept as far as I'm concerned.
The differences between racers are less eminent here. What really changes things up are the parts you choose for the kart. You get to choose 3 different pieces, the body, the wheels and the glider. Jumping and gliding is such an integral part of Mario Kart 7 that a specified item will take care of that, changing how your kart deals with jumps. Heavier karts have less air time while lighter vehicles could even cut good amounts of a track simply by gliding through it. A few shortcuts might come about here and there involving this mechanic.
The wheels are the main speed modifier and some even go beyond this. Like the sponge wheel which ease the extreme speed loss when going off-track. In multiplayer you can change before each track played while in grand prix mode you need to play all 4 tracks with whatever set you chose at the beginning. The body part also affects speed but also tells how heavy you car is. Some designs make a come back, like the barrel train body from Double Dash.
The added bonus for Mario Kart has always been the deathmatch stages where people fight with balloons, trying to burst each other's with items while keeping their own. This time the balloons are back along with a coin chase mode which chooses the winner based on how many coins they can gather in a determined period of time. You can play these modes online so it's a pretty sweet deal.
The online is what makes it stand out, for the first time it's done well. It's also worth noting that Mario Kart continues popular throughout the years so even years after the release it's quite easy to find people willing to have a few races in the world wide web. before it begins everyone chooses a track and a randomizer will determined which of the chosen tracks will be played.
Players can create groups which gather information about who are the top winners and stuff like that. These groups also let other types of rules be chosen, like only mushrooms races, for example. Each player can keep track of how many wins and loses they have. It works great because you don't have to necessarily reach first place to win. let's say you gather 8 people to race and you finish 5th, you still have 3 wins for that much as well as 4 losses. If you make it first place you get all 7 wins as you beat all other players. Great system.
It's safe to say that Mario Kart is a fail-proof kind of game, as long as Nintendo sticks to basics and don't try to change the core mechanic of the game people won't complain. It could lead to disastrous results (Double Dash) or it could lead to this, a well balanced racing game that does nothing except what's expected of it. It can be a good thing for some, it can be bad for others, take you pick.
What you get in the end is a solid Mario Kart experience that should quench the thirst of anyone aching for the regular Mario Kart. Anyone expecting more that that, especially since Nintendo in the last few years basically seemed to only release games that have a definite stir in the way they are played, be it touch screen or motion controls, should tread cautiously. There's nothing beyond ordinary here, maybe that a good thing.