I don't review that much, but if you're even vaguely aware of me and my gaming life, you'll know that I am an Old Man. We grew up with a Spectrum 48K and a fucking Commodore +4 thanks to my dad being a bit of an eejit, and much as I loved to play on them, things took a severe and brilliant swerve when the NES landed in our house. No waiting ten minutes to play something; just put the cartridge in there and away you go.
As I got a bit older and began working, I spent my first paycheck on a Super Nintendo and Super Mario World
and played the merry hell out of it. More great titles followed, but there was no bigger gamechanger than Mario Kart
. That system and cart combo stayed with me for years, constantly plugged into whatever TV we had in whatever house I was in. It's probably my favourite series of games that has even been created.
It was the perfect game - folks huddled around the screen, winner stays on, and those courses are still ingrained in our minds to this day. The series has continued, landing on every format that Nintendo has released. Some weren't as well received (take a bow, Double Dash
) but still... even the worst Mario Kart is better than 90% of other games.
Now we have a brand new iteration that aims to continue the legacy. Mario Kart 8
is a big deal for the Wii U, the release that many hope will turn the fortunes of this flailing machine, and while I'm not entirely sure that it will save the system - can anything really do that? - I'm delighted to say that this latest game in the series may well be the best one so far.
As is usual, there are thirty-two different courses split into eight separate cups - four brand new ones and four retro sets, dipping into some of the best tracks from each of the previous releases.
When you first load up the game you're presented with a decent array of characters, but even more are made available through unlocks, all of which have their own subtle differences. Collecting coins brings more custom options for your vehicles, and yes, we've still got a mix of cars and bikes. Whatever your play style, you'll have a combination that will work for you.
The Big New Thing for this latest Mario Kart
is the anti-gravity elements of the courses. At times your vehicle will speed over a blue bar that turns your wheels into glowing, floating... things
that allow you to race sideways, upside down, all over the place. This opens up even more short cuts around the levels, and you'll be keeping an eye out for those places that allow you to cut precious split seconds off your time. Sure, it may appear a little gimmicky at first, but once you get the hang of the camera tilting back and forth you'll quickly realize that it adds a whole new level of fun to the game.
Of the brand new courses, there are some that I believe will be regarded as future classics - the hectic activity of Sunshine Airport and the point-to-point action of Mount Wario both spring to mind. There's also the Daft Punk inspired insanity of the Electrodrome, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and challenging courses from the whole series.
As always there's a brand new Rainbow Road, this time set in space with satellites flying past you - and if you want to show someone just how good games on the Wii U can look, fire this up, put a controller in their hand and see just how much their eyes widen.