Game Review

‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’ Review (2017)

Screen Critics Shaun offers his take on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – and why he thinks this game is essential for anyone with a Nintendo Switch console.

The Nintendo Switch’s early success can be put down to a strong software lineup. Sliding The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild into the launch lineup guaranteed a tent pole attraction for everyone. But now we’re a month down the line, and it’s important for the company to keep that momentum going. With Mario Kart 8 Deluxe arriving – the console arguably its first major multiplayer attraction. The question is – should those who’ve already bought the game return for seconds?

The biggest hurdle to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s existence is whether it justifies a second purchase. With no benefits afforded to Wii U owners for prior ownership, it seems like a tall ask to demand full price for what, on the surface, appears to be a straight port. Luckily the transition from Wii U to Switch is a faultless one, and certainly worthy of considerable praise.

The biggest praise to offer is that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an almost faultless port of the Wii U game. Nothing has been lost in the translation – a hugely impressive feat. Mario Kart 8 was one of the Wii U’s more comprehensive packages – and it all makes the jump without so much of a hiccup. Seeing it run in a smooth 60 frames per second on the Switch is a huge plus to the potential of the device – and it barely ever faults.

This isn’t to say Nintendo is resting on its laurels. It’s clear the company heard some of the biggest critiques around its Switch console and decided to act upon them. The biggest of these occurs in the battle mode, which has been entirely revamped. Out go the normal courses and awkwardness that existed prior, in comes a selection of custom developed courses that fit the bill better. There’s also a range of options to help keep things fresh, from a capture the star mode to the traditional balloon blast. It’s certainly a more engaging mode than previous efforts and works on the go very well.

What makes this package all the more appealing is the inclusion of all the Wii U versions DLC as standard. It’s a decision that makes the Deluxe Edition of the game feel complete. The likes of Link and the Animal Crossing cast are there from the start. This also extends to the DLC courses, which are included as base game content. It’s important to know this as there as it means that there are a staggering selection of 48 courses on offer – a healthy mix of new and retro courses (retrofitted to suit Mario Kart 8’s anti-gravity mechanics). It’s unclear if Nintendo plans to add any further characters to the roster or courses to the selection,- but what’s here on Day One is certainly comprehensive enough for all tastes.

Graphically the game is equal to the Wii U version. Frame rate is smooth, even when split screen action is underway. It’s incredible seeing this on the hardware offered, with no stuttering or frame drops to note. I did feel that split screen on the handheld mode was somewhat small to view for extended periods, but as a portable solution in small bursts it more than does its job.

Controls are also incredibly easy to adapt too. One of the shortcomings in transitioning from Wii U to Switch is the loss of several control options – something the Switch attempts to amend. The Joycons can be operated as a pair or individually. Even with my bulky hands, I had no issue using the single Joycon’s – something I was concerned about prior to launch. There’s also the option to use Wiimote-like motion controls – although I never found myself keen to test this out. The game even adds in various modes to help ease in younger and more novice players – assisting in keeping gamers on the track. Perhaps most annoyingly, this can’t be changed without pausing while in a race – a slight oversight on Nintendo’s part.

Online also remains a slightly disappointing venture. The absence of voice chat is a sad exclusion, while the lack ability to take a group of friends into public matches remains baffling. You can make rooms locally, with a mixture of split screen and local consoles – but there’s no way to take a group online into public matches. When it works, it works well. Sadly when it doesn’t work, it can lead to some baffling disconnections – with no feedback.

I’ve also encountered some rather odd disconnections while waiting in the lobby at times – something that afflicts both the offline and online modes of the game. The game will seemingly enter an endless loop while voting for tracks – forcing you to quit out and re-enter. The game also has some local connection issues – something you should be wary of (Nintendo have said a patch is coming).

Really there’s not much new to say here about the game. For new players, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a no-brainer. Wii U owners may feel slightly disappointed at the lack of outright new content, but the overall package screams charm and quality. The selection of tracks is exhaustive and there’s enough here to justify a second purchase. It’s easily the best showcase of the Nintendo Switch’s all around capabilities – both from hardware and co-operative play. It’s a brilliant package and well worth the asking price.

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