One of the more predictable announcements coming out of Nintendo at this year’s E3 was the news that there would be a new Mario Kart coming. Mario Kart 8 continues the trend of chaotic kart racing that involves throwing iconic objects from the Mario franchise at the other racers in hopes of pulling ahead, as well as many curse words. But mostly the first thing.
The demo station had both a Wii U gamepad as well as a Wii remote fitted with the steering wheel peripheral. Users of the gamepad now have the option of either using the buttons to control their kart, or the built in motion controls. My experience with Mario Kart Wii has taught me that the former more frequently leads to success, so that’s what I chose and the race began.
There were a number of return features from previous Mario Kart titles, namely the hang glider and the ability of your kart to sprout a rotor when driving through the water. You can also drive motorbikes again, and the Nintendo rep confirmed that the final version will allow you to customize your kart/motorcycle. New this time around are ramps designed to allow your racer to drive along the walls and ceiling. These alternate driving surfaces serve as a nice shortcut so long as you don’t miss any jumps or get hit while traversing them, as it could cause you to fall back to the ground and lose valuable time. The game looks fantastic in HD and while the roster was limited in the demo, all of the characters looked and animated great; especially since it runs at 60 frames per second. It’s unknown if the game will support off-TV play though.
It’s been clear to me ever since the last two entries that the franchise is in serious need of some kind of shakeup. Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is my favorite for a reason, as the two person kart setup was so brilliant in its execution. It really needs to come back (I said as much to the Nintendo rep there); but if not that, then I hope they are able to find some mechanic that is able to keep the experience from being stale. Could driving on walls be the gimmick it’s looking for? Perhaps. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping a close eye on this one in the months to come. Mario Kart 8 releases in 2014 for the Wii U.