Let’s start by going over how gorgeous Mario Kart 8 looks in High Definition. Quite simply it’s stunning, so good in fact that you sometimes forget that your meant to be racing. I know that lots of families will have been used to seeing the levels on Mario Kart Wii, so when you see them redesigned on Mario Kart 8 you will be very impressed. There’s also 16 new tracks for the game, one which reminded me of Sugar Rush from Wreck-It Ralph. All the tracks though are sure to test the ability of all Mario Kart drivers.
The big feature for the game is the ability to drive up walls using the anti-gravity booster pads. Crossing these will cause your kart’s wheels to turn sideways and allow you to hover up walls and ceilings, which is super fun and only adds more playability to the already great track designs. I should give a mention to the excellent underwater and gliding sections, which you may have seen in Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS.
Another improvement over the previous games is the choice available when selecting your kart or bike. Again the more you play the more vehicles you unlock. You can customise your kart or bike with different wheels, as well as gliders for those flying sections. Don’t forget though that your choice of vehicle and wheels will affect how it performs during races. You can check these stats by pushing the ‘+’ button on your controller (which wasn’t obvious at first).
Mario Kart wouldn’t be the game it is without having a blue shell or a slippery banana skin to throw at other racers, so it’s no surprise to see us having the same weapons as before plus the introduction of some new weapons. These are the Boomerang Flower (players throw a boomerang that will come back and hopefully hit any racers ahead of you), the Super Horn (sends out a sonic boom that knocks other players off track), and the Piranha Plant (attacks nearby racers). The best though is Crazy Eight, which gives you 8 of one specific item. So you can imagine the amusement of lining up 8 banana peels on one corner for everyone to try and avoid.
For me the highlight is being able to play online, which is free as long as you’ve got an internet connection. Our internet isn’t that great but still I didn’t see any lagging whilst playing. You can also play 2 player online, which I can’t wait to use once I’m able to invite a friend over. There’s the ability to set up tournaments online and you can voice chat with other racers using the Wii U gamepad’s built in microphone. It’s a shame though that there’s no use yet for the built in camera, as I’m sure online leader boards would look more atheistically pleasing with profile pics of the actual players.
Another new thing is the online feature called Mario Kart TV, which essentially allows players to view highlights of previous races and even upload them to Miiverse and YouTube.
When using the Wii U gamepad there are few options that you can play around with that enhance the overall Mario Kart experience. The touch screen can show you a live map of the course, thereby allowing you to see where other competitors are during a race. It also displays a list on the left showing every racers position and what weapon they’re carrying. Like other games for the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 supports off-TV play, so if TiredMummyofTwo wants to watch ‘Bones’ or ‘Vampire Diaries’, I can carry on playing.
If your intentions are play Mario Kart the classic way (4 players in the same room), then you’ll be pleased to hear that the game supports many different controllers. Obviously you can play with the Wii U gamepad (which can be switched between motion controls and analogue stick), but you can use a Wii Remote Plus and/or Nunchuck, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Classic Controller and the Wii Wheel.
I’ve saved the best part though till last. For a limited time (30/05/14 to 31/07/14), if you buy Mario Kart 8 and register the device on a Club Nintendo account, you will be able to choose a free Wii U game from the Nintendo eShop. There are 10 games to choose from, all of which are extremely good and will save you a lot of money. The titles available are Nintendoland, New Super Mario Bros.U, Game & Wario, Pikmin 3, Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Sonic Lost World, Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games, Wii Party U, The Wonderful 101 and Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate.
Once you’ve registered your product on your Club Nintendo account wait 48 hours before logging back on and you will be prompted to choose your free game. You should then receive a download code that can be redeemed on the Nintendo eShop. I still haven’t chosen our free game yet as there’s so many good games to choose from. If you haven’t already got a Wii U, maybe now is the time to take advantage of this brilliant offer.