The Mario Kart series is oft-championed as the epitome of karting games. Enter Mario Kart 7, a title that is challenged with keeping the series fresh while delivering the thrills and quirks fans desire.
As with many of Nintendo’s first party titles, you will be genuinely reminded over and again why you started playing video games. Through its animations, track design and characters, MK7 throws endless charm and colour at your grinning face.
I imagine a world where everyone plays Mario Kart. For those anomalies, you race your favourite Nintendo characters around 32 ingeniously designed tracks in delightfully little vehicles while launching devious items at opponents, causing them to swear vengeance. New in this entry are the Tanooki tail, allowing you a spin attack, the Lucky Seven, equipping 7 items simultaneously, and the Fire Flower, letting you launch fierce fire balls, each of which are welcome additions to the fray.
Controls are tight and responsive, proving yet again that the 3DS’s circle pad packs accurate punch and for those of you interested, the gyroscopic FP view works a treat. Three newly introduced mechanics are present in MK7. Hang-gliding allows for shorter cuts and has been implemented well into older tracks. Disappointingly, neither underwater racing nor customisation are done well enough to matter. Nintendo could have really gone to town fleshing out the customisation options given the wealth of content across the series, but only a handful of variations are available.
Trust Nintendo to do it, but I found myself struggling to judge distances properly without 3D, showing developers how it can really be used to augment an experience as beautiful as MK7 with its lush visuals. As with the presentation, the music, voices and effects will be familiar to fans and do a great job accentuating the charm the series delivers so very well.
MK7 makes full use of the 3DS’s online capabilities, offering players local multiplayer for up to eight players as well as decent online racing without lag, letting you play through the single player Grand Prix tracks as well as Coin and Balloon battles. Online even boasts communities along with StreetPass and SpotPass challenges.
While Mario Kart 7 does so much right, it also falters in obvious ways. Why the series does not employ the same approach as Super Smash Bros., allowing players to choose from a staggering array of Nintendo’s best characters rather than a mere 16 is a mystery. Imagine racing with Link or Samus? Were this route chosen, new character specific items could be created resulting in a more conscious choice of participant and fresh item ideas. A track editor community akin to ModNation Racers would also do wonders to the stagnating track selection, which while has some brilliant new additions, is made up predominantly of oldies.
For those who don’t care about such things, however, this is kart racing gold at its best.