Mario Kart 7
In all of his misadventures outside his platforming outings to save Princess Peach from the grasps of King Bowser, Mario’s racing has not only been the oldest series, but also the best. For his newest iteration he plays it like a sports title, bringing along the features of the previous titles and sprinkling in a few new ones. Very little has changed in between titles, though that is not entirely a bad thing. Mario Kart 7 is just as engaging and accessible as its predecessors, providing a fun experience that also contains depth within its more challenging modes.
If you’ve played any Mario Kart ever then you should know what to expect. If you haven’t, it’s fairly simple. Race against characters plucked out of the Mario universe in tracks thematically based on the various worlds of Mario. Difficulty is presented via the class of engine within the kart, 50cc being easy, 100cc being normal and 150cc being hard. Collect items via boxes, use these items to get ahead. And if that’s not enough, a hop and a skid around a corner can earn you a temporary boost of speed.
There are a few new features, aside from the 3D, that have made their way into this release. For one, there are some sections in which you’ll be racing underwater, which slows you down. Hang gliders provide a new method to cross large portions of the map, as well as speed boosts from some of the shortcuts spread throughout. There are long races, long enough to be divided into sections as opposed to laps, which provide a grander approach to the race itself.
And then there’s the ability to set the camera into first person and then steer the kart with the 3DS accelerometer. It’s a nifty feature, one that works a lot better than I expected it to, but only to a point. The main reason is because the 3D on the system demands you look at the screen from specific, comfortable angles. Constantly tilting the screen back and forth as you attempt to hit the turns does not bode well for your eyes. It’s a novelty more than anything else.
At 50cc, the easy mode, you don’t have to worry so much. It’s very likely you’ll find yourself leaving your opponents so far behind the dust has settled by the time they emerge. If you’re looking for a challenge though, 100cc will start to push, it’s racers fast, it’s final seconds split. If you want to succeed in the 150cc class, you’ll need to focus.
Not that Mario Kart 7 is all about skill. There’s still a great deal of luck to be appropriated if you expect to make it pass the finish line without the inevitable barrage of blue, red and green shells your opponents have just collected. The chances of getting excellent items all depends on your place in the race; the farther back you are, the better your chances of drawing a game-changing item.
It can be frustrating to race perfectly to the end, only to see first place robbed by a sudden series of attacks that you simply cannot recover from. It’s this kind of thing that reminds you that you’re not playing a serious racing game, despite what the 150cc class would like you to believe. You’re still playing a party game, albeit a well constructed one.
Multiplayer is somewhat functional, providing just a fraction above a bare bones system. The system is meant to be easy to use, rather than fully-featured. The only option that changes from race to race is the map selection, of which every racer selects a map they’d like to play. A randomizer then picks the track that is used. Simple, convenient, and the lack of head sets means you don’t have to worry about someone complaining that Rainbow Road was chosen for the fifteenth time.
It’s another Mario Kart game, through and through. The formula remains unchanged with Nintendo hesitant on adding anything more than minor details. Luckily, the formula’s a good one.