WHILE other driving games have breathlessly pursued increasingly complex and realistic simulations of a multitude of high-performance vehicle, Mario Kart has always kept things uncomplicated.
Mario Kart 8 - Wii U
Score: 9.2 / 10
Simplicity is its greatest virtue, best embodied by a drifting system that makes use of a shoulder button and a few nuanced waggles of a thumbstick. For years, the formula has been a winning one, and Mario Kart 8 continues the tradition.
The eighth main entry in the series and its debut on the Wii U, the title is a harmonious mesh of vibrant design and nuanced mechanics that make it arguably the best installment since the illustrious Super Nintendo Entertainment System debut some 22 years ago. The core has been revised ever so slightly to create a handling system of significant depth and purpose, while new tracks inject vim and variety to proceedings.
Time trial, online modes
As ever, it is the race against the clock as opposed to CPU racers that gives the game longevity. What might seem entirely straightforward - hugging the lip of a tight turn or timing a boost up a gradient - requires hours, if not days of practice and repetition. Reward is measured in hundredths of a second and as was the case in Mario Circuit 1 on the SNES, beating your own time by an infinitesimal degree is one of the most satisfying achievements in gaming.
Online, the game offers a great variety of modes with only minor flaws; the redesigned battle mode, for instance, is interesting but loses some of the drama of the tight, claustrophobic arenas seen in earlier games. In terms of presentation, the scope of Mario Kart TV - a video editing feature which allows you to switch focus between racers, parts of a track and even objects - is an excellent addition.
Mario Kart 8 tips and tricks
1) Anyone who has played a Mario Kart knows that drifting can be difference between a chequered flag and crushing disappointment. Mario Kart 8 is no exception and mastering the sensitive gameplay mechanic can shave seconds off your lap time. Always aim to have your tyres burning with fiery orange sparks, a sure fire sign of a quick burst of acceleration.
2) Racing amongst a crowded pack on a long straight can be put to your advantage if you know how. Slipstreaming allows you to tuck in behind a rival and use their momentum to propel your kart forwards. Used wisely, it is an excellent way of overtaking while keeping your power-ups for the rest of the race.
3) It is not only in the middle of a race that an advantage can be gained. As with previous games in the series, timing when you press down on the gas at the starting grid countdown can give you a vital boost. Be careful, though - hit the pedal too early or too late and it will backfire, leaving you trailing at the back of the pack.
4) The customisable karts may look like a nice way of changing your driver’s aesthetics, but finding the right combination of components for the vehicle can help complement your driving style. Spend some time finding what works best for you before hitting the tracks in earnest.
5) Some items, such as the humble banana or green shell, may seem underpowered and it is tempting to discard them as quickly you as you found them. Resist - their offensive powers may be questionable, but deploying them without releasing them can act as a useful defensive barrier for unwelcome red shell attacks.