Ah, Mario Kart. You’ve nearly sold as many units as New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy combined on Wii and you’re the third best-selling DS game of all time. You’ve provided me and many others around the globe with many an hour of entertainment and you’ve made and broken friendships over heated multiplayer races. The question is though, “Do I really need another Mario Kart game?” And the answer is yes. Yes, I do (probably).
There were three races on show with the eight usual suspect characteres to choose from. I chose Toad (because he’s the best!) and quickly went on to the customisation screen. I was a little disappointed to see that there wasn’t really a great deal of the hotly touted customisation available. I had the option of big wheels and little wheels (and a few inbetween) and a little variation on which chassis I went for, but there was only one air glider to choose from, and there wasn’t any option for changing your underwater propeller.
While you can alter your kart to your liking, it’s unknown whether it actually makes any difference.
Moreover, given the fact that the trailer for Mario Kart 7 showed off all these different options, I was also expecting to see some sort of stats gauge to indicate the flaws and merits of choosing particular tyres etc., but that too was missing. It rather reminded me of the apparent non-event of having two racers in Mario Kart: Double Dash. I always thought that having a heavier character on the back should make your turns sharper as they can swing their weight around, but as much as I tried to test my theory, Koopa Trooper still had the same effect as Bowser and there didn’t seem to be any discernible difference. Which leads me in turn to think that if there’s no obvious way of telling which overall kart is better, why have the customisation at all?
Anyway, getting into the meat of the race, the graphics looked stunning. The three tracks were all brand new, sporting a jungle, beach and Donkey Kong Country Returns-esque theme respectively, and they were classic Mario Kart fun. Much like Mario Kart DS, the top screen features all the eye-popping 3D racing while the bottom screen holds your map.
Similar to F-Zero GX, players can either nose-dive at breath-taking speed or glide a little further for a softer, albeit slightly slower, landing.
Coins also made a comeback from Mario Kart Super Circuit on Game Boy Advance and the items seemed to be a bit more balanced this time round. In first place I still got bananas and green shells, but I didn’t get blue-shelled at all during my time with the demo, so hopefully they’ve also toned down the frequency of that devilish race destroyer. Another noticeable addition (or subtraction) is what they’ve done with the snaking mechanic. All players had to do to get their coveted extra boost was hold down the L or R buttons– no waggling the circle pad back and forth was required.
But of course, the most important new additions to Mario Kart 7 are the air glider and the underwater propeller.
Coins increase your speed, but will you play it safe or risk the clam to seize your prize?
Both were very interesting, although I definitely liked the air glider a lot more. There seemed to be more options for cutting corners or sections of the track with the air glider, whereas the underwater sections were all mandatory parts of the demo courses and didn’t really change-up the race as much as I had anticipated. Aside from only skidding on two wheels underwater as opposed to all four, it didn’t immediately jump out and make me say “Wow, this is amazing.”
What might make the underwater sections better though is if they eventually incorporate additional underwater tracks in some of the older courses we know and love (which hopefully, in traditional Mario Kart style, they will include). That would really offer more reasons to take the underwater route and enhance its appeal, but it definitely didn’t create much of an impression from what the demo levels had on show.
All in all, the air glider is definitely an intriguing and stand-out addition to the Mario Kart series, but I have to reserve judgment on the merits of the propeller until we see a little more of what’s in store for this round of Mario Kart mayhem. Definitely one to watch.