We finally got our hands on Mario Kart 8 for Wii U today at Best Buy via the Nintendo Experience and as promised we got some footage of what we played. We arrived at Best Buy pretty close to 1pm not expecting a ton of people to be there, 3 hours later of Animal Crossing and Street Passing on 3DS it was our turn to play! We could have played a boss battle in Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, a level in Donkey Kong: Tropical Breeze, some cat suit filled fun in Super Mario 3D World, but we HAD to play Mario Kart 8.
The game could be played with the Wii U Gamepad or a Wii Remote, I played with the Gamepad. The Nintendo rep there stated you could use the analog stick on to control movement, but it appears that wasn’t true, as tilting the controller from side to side was the only thing that worked. Hopefully in the final version you can choose either or, that or let players use a classic controller or pro controller. The tilting seems a bit tighter than that in Mario Kart Wii but analog controls are still more precise and preferred for serious players.
This game looks gorgeous, the screen is filled with bright colors, colors that are missing from most of Sony and Microsoft’s games. We were allowed to play two races, one in the Mushroom Kingdom where you can see Princess Peach’s castle, and the other in a harbor that would have felt at home in a Wave Race game. The water looked great, the boats looked great, the karts looked great, Mario Kart 8 isn’t Crysis, and Crysis isn’t colorful, take that as you will.
Racing mechanics haven’t changed much, you can shake or mash R while hitting bumps and ramps for a small trick / boost, drifting, and most all the characters have returned. The only big differences notices were: lack of blue shells, decoy question mark blocks, hang gliding and anti-gravity. Perhaps it was just coincidental, but there were no blue shells or decoy question mark blocks seen during our preview. Blue shells basically ruined Mario Kart Wii for me, so this would be a hugely welcome change, while decoy question mark blocks would be missed.
Hang gliding was introduced in Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS and really didn’t do much to influence or change the gameplay, simply giving you the ability to go up and down in the air a bit. Hang gliding in Mario Kart 8 though gives the player much more control and feels more useful, if not a bit touchy, though this could have been caused by only being able to tilt the controller to move.
The final new addition is anti-gravity, something many people have surely been wondering about since it’s announcement. Anti-gravity doesn’t really affect the gameplay as much as it does visuals. Hanging from the side of the wall feels exactly the same as racing on the ground, and when upside down you won’t even notice unless you look up in the sky to realize Peach’s castle is underneath you.
Overall the game felt solid, if not pretty similar to what we are used to, only a bit more refined with a sexy coat of paint. Look for more coverage of Mario Kart 8 as it’s release gets close to in 2014.