on 20 March 2012
Most of us know the Mario Kart franchise by now- various characters from Mario games race with comedic weaponry around large, colourful and often challenging race courses. It is a winning formula that has proven more than worthy time and time again, yet for some reason this offering doesn't quite feel substantial enough, despite new weapons, new courses, and new features.
GLIDING AND DIVING
It is true that the gliding and underwater sections on some of the race tracks do a very good job of breaking up the race, and provide a slight twist on the normal kart racing, the problem is they don't seem to change the formula enough to make a meaningful impact. Gliding feels rather lonely- there rarely seems to be any aerial combat the likes of which you might expect whilst powersliding around a tight corner dodging green shells, the other racers tend to float away. At the same time although the gliding sections feel faster than when on the ground they don't feel at all tense- I feel an opportunity was wasted for some more tight aerial maneuvering and dare I say it, dogfights? Like wise the underwater sections seem to cause only very slight changes in game play.
As with all Mario Kart games of recent years, we are given 16 brand new tracks and 16 classic tracks to race on. Again the problem with the new tracks is that they have very little impact. None of The new race courses, with the exception of rainbow road, really jump out and wow me like tracks from previous installments have. Don't get me wrong they are challenging and well designed but something is just lacking. Luckily the selection of classic tracks is sublime, specifically the choices from the Snes, Wii and DS versions of the game are colourful, require skill to excel, stick in your mind and are a lot of fun! I think my problem with the new race courses is that I don't quite like the aesthetic design, or it might be that I do love the design but they are a little too similar to past race courses. Either way I feel that there is something for everyone here and many of the problems of pacing in the new tracks is less noticeable when playing the multiplayer.
We all know the core items of the game, green shells which bounce around, homing red shells, the dreaded blue shell which homes on the leader of the race and explodes... We have banana peels, bob-ombs, flower power, lightning clouds, blooper ink, mushroom speed boosts, invincibility stars and the terrifying bullet bill! The let down is the new items- that is to say item. Mario Kart 7 introduces the racoon/tanooki upgrade. This adds a tail to your kart with which you can hit enemies, reflect shells (although not blue shells) and clear the road of banana peel. The problem with the items though is that the new item doesn't pack enough punch, doesn't really do anything new or game-changing, whilst the balance issues of the previous items seem even more ridiculous in this game. Never in any Mario kart game have I felt so plagued by blue shells when miles ahead of the CPU players to the point that I can't make a come back. At the same time it seems almost impossible to outrun or ditch red shells(with a strategic boost or tight turn) as I remember learning to do in Mario Kart:Double Dash or Mario Kart DS. This is even more frustrating when playing multiplayer- never do I feel more cheated than when 3 blue shells in a row removed my incredible lead on the competition when I am so close to winning the race. It should also be mentioned that certain items are even more unbalanced if heaven forbid you should be gliding over an abyss (as you are sometimes required to do) when you are struck. Don't get me wrong, the game is still a lot of fun but I just wish that certain items could be disabled from matches (such as Smash Balls in Super Smash Bros. Brawl) so that the competition was purely down to skill and not bad luck with items!
This really is the crux of Mario Kart games, and Mario Kart 7 does not disappoint. Despite my criticisms of the items and tracks lacking punch something keeps me coming back to battle my friends. There is nothing like landing a hit with a green shell on your best mate, only to powerslide into them and knock them off the course! It feels fast, frantic, and is just a joy to play! You can play with friends locally or online, as well as strangers, and this is all easy to set up and do.
I've already mentioned that a lot of the new courses seem to lack impact. I think the 3d effect washes out a little of the colour, but the effect is pleasing and immersive. Turn the 3d effect off and the colours really come alive. I think considering the selling point of this Mario Kart version is the 3D effect this is a little disappointing, but again I think that personal taste is a large factor in this and that we have a choice is brilliant.
This is Mario Kart, we know what to expect. It is fun, funny, tense and well designed. It also has limited single player, and some frustrating moments. Although it is no incredible innovator like Mario Kart DS, it does have enough new features and improvements on old titles that I feel it is worth a purchase to fans of the series, anyone who has never played a mario kart game, or anyone really itching for some good multiplayer on the 3DS.
Be well, and happy gaming!