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REVIEW: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

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  • Nintendo Wii U / Rated E / $59.99 / released May 2014
  • OFFICIAL SITE: mariokart8.nintendo.com
  • FINAL: You NEED this game. 5 out of 5 stars

Any new Mario Kart game is an eagerly anticipated addition to the Nintendo library. Mario Kart is an absolute staple and, once again, gamers can count on Nintendo to deliver a quality iteration to one of Mario’s top side gigs.


Mario Kart 8,” available for Nintendo Wii U, features 32 gorgeous racetracks and nearly as many Mario family characters to race on them. The tracks follow Nintendo’s usual pattern of 16 all-new courses and 16 “remastered” favorites from previous Kart releases. While some of the usual locales have returned – Bowser’s Castle! Donkey Kong’s Jungle! – “8” also drops in some unexpected travel destinations like a Yoshi animal preserve and a Toad-managed airport. If you’re worried about half the tracks being re-runs, note that Nintendo has lovingly re-created each one to bring them up to the Wii U’s HD visual standard. Plus, Nintendo has carefully tweaked some of the older courses to add in the signature element of “Mario Kart 8”: anti-gravity racing.


Yes, “Mario Kart 8” will drive you up walls and even take you upside-down as tracks twist in every direction. Although it may sound disorienting, the game turns the camera as you drive to keep your viewpoint level. In some tracks you barely even notice you are on the ceiling, except during the post-game replay. To that end, the anti-grav elements are there purely for inventive track designs, allowing for thrilling plunges down a waterfall and vertiginous u-turns on roads that hang in mid-air.


To forever save those moments, “Mario Kart 8” will create shareable highlight reels of your race. By clicking through a selection of very simple settings after any event, the game can generate a 30 to 60 second video clip of highlights, which can then be shared to Nintendo’s Miiverse site or to YouTube. Perusing friends’ replays is a great way to discover shortcuts and techniques that can shave tenths off of your Time Trial scores.


“Mario Kart 8” supports all of Nintendo’s modern controllers. You can use the GamePad or a Wii Remote/Wii Wheel for motion-based controls, although that still does not quite measure up to the old-fashioned joystick-based option. The GamePad itself supports both modes – a button on the screen lets you instantly swap between control schemes – or you can use Nintendo’s Wii U Pro Controller. The GamePad also is the new home for the live race rankings, which means those beautiful HD tracks are not obscured in any way by leaderboards and the overhead track map.


Unless you’re the type of Karter who exclusively played Battle Mode, which Nintendo unexpectedly hamstrung in this outing, you’ll find “Mario Kart 8” a typically fantastic entry in the line. The kart handling is as precise and satisfying as ever; the course designs are bright and detailed. With plenty of customization options and the ability to create dramatic race videos, “Mario Kart 8” is a crowd-pleaser. Every Wii U owner should have this one on hand.


This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. Image courtesy Nintendo of America. Edited after publication to remove reference to YouTube uploading.


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