GAME NAME: Mario Kart 7
PLATFORM(S): Nintendo 3DS
RELEASE DATE(S): 2 December 2011
There’s nothing wrong with producing a nervous ‘parp’ whenever you hear that Nintendo is adding new features to a franchise that is nigh-on perfect. After all, too much fiddling with it leaves you with something like Double Dash, which was compromised by its rocket-start boost on the GameCube. Mario Kart DS was as close to perfection as the wacky Nintendo developers ever reached and it’s with relief that we can tell you that Mario Kart 7 has avoided a blue shell by using seamless trickery.
Nintendo has not taken the Kart series to the next level. Nope. Instead they’ve added bits and pieces to a solid untouched foundation. The karts handle exactly as those in Mario Kart DS did, albeit improved controls with use of the analogue slider. The two major steering additions, underwater and gliding, are a total hoot as the gliding in particular adds an interesting new tactical edge as you look for the perfect point for landing. Often tracks will split up and provide you with a choice of continuing along the obvious route or being a daredevil and steering into the unknown where short-cuts are king.
The usual weapons have remained intact. Bullet Bill, Bob-omb, Golden Dash Mushroom, Lightning, Super Star and the dreadful blue shell – that can now crawl on the ground as well as slide through thin air towards the leader – have all returned to create havoc. The once laughed-at Blooper that squirts ink on your screen has now become a genuine threat when using the 3D feature. It reverts your view to the bottom screen, making you follow the action from a top-down menu by using your map as a guide as to where you’re steering. Three new weapons come in the form of the Fire Flower – which shoots fireballs, Super Leaf – which attaches a Tanooki tail to your kart to hit other karts and incoming shells and Lucky Seven that has seven different weapons popping up alongside your kart to help you demolish the competition within seconds.
The snaking speed-streak tactics from Mario Kart DS have remained intact and so has slip-streaming. In fact, those moving to this three-dimensional kart racer will find that the 16 new tracks have been complemented with some of the best 16 retro tracks from previous Mario Kart outings, ranging from the original SNES title right through to recent tracks on the Wii. Each of the older tracks have been tweaked just enough to feel fresh as it takes advantage of the new hardware features. Wuhu Island and DK Jungle – designed by Retro Studios (of Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country Returns fame) are the best of the new tracks.
The 3D effects are exemplary and are complemented by gyro control support – which works well with the new first-person camera -, Spot Pass and StreetPass. Players can customise their own karts by selecting the chassis, wheel set and glider individually to compete for the best online setup with up to seven other players. Players can take it a step further and create an online community that grants then a specific code to share with friends – getting rid of unwelcome guests and upping the local flavour. All this stacked neatly inside acartridge. Never before has Mario Kart offered so much content and hours of fun in a manner that is this easily accessible. It’s definitely worth shelling out for.