Mario Kart 8 Review: Eight is Great

Mario Kart 8 is like a Banana Split—the combination of it all just good. It all merges as a classic, instead of what could have been. There are a slurry of events happening in each race, but it all comes together to create an sensational¬†gaming experience.

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Initial release date: May 29, 2014
Developer: Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development
Series: Mario Kart
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U

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Mario Kart 8 delivers a precision-based driving performance. While familiar distractions still create the frenzy players enjoy, the tracks themselves are enough to prove a challenge.

What stands out in this tour is the game’s focus on drifting—you know, sliding around the track to gain a speed advantage. The major component in this shift of direction is the selection of the racing tracks themselves. Mario Kart 8 delivers a combination of previous favorites with some newer tracks that highlight what real driving tests don’t incorporate, thankfully.

And, it works.

And there’s never a sense of safety with any position in Mario Kart, not even last. How players finish a race is directly related to how well they manage (and hopefully take advantage of) curves. While some tracks may be difficult to handle at first, Nintendo compensates for those fanciful curves by kart management.

Each kart is comprised of a body, a set of wheels and some “kites” that add charm to each rig, even for characters like Bowser. In these combinations, players are provided the keys to discover their own driving styles. I also find that some karts, like the cycles, are best at helping beginners coast through those menacing curves.

And of course, I enjoy the Mario series’ characters. What’s not to like about finally seeing justice rendered towards a grounded Lakitu?

But an area of improvement is the game’s AI. I don’t think aggressive accurately displays how the game ensures tight races. When’s the last time you’ve seen everyone on the track dodge three red shells? Also, the CPU has no setback from being hit, robbing the satisfaction of an otherwise successful sabotage.

Anti-Gravity Zones are just as confusing as GPS telling a driver to drive straight, when the only options are to turn left or right. The reason is the focus on the Spin Boost mechanic. Colliding with an opponent gives a slight speed boost to both players, but I find the feature to be sloppily implemented as control of the kart is somewhat diminished by the animation. However, the effect of the feature may be what the developers intended..

Mario Kart 8 is a good installment in the series, one that continues to deliver familiar antics and grinds out the challenge of proper steering. The Spin Boost is a welcome addition and if fleshed out well, could be more of a benefit than a detriment in most instances.