Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition Review
The Nintendo Switch experienced a mixed buzz when it launched a month or two ago. With some hardware issues, a lack of core essential features and a limited run of games, you would be forgiven for thinking the Switch was in for a tough time. However a lot of these negatives have been countered nicely with arguably the greatest RPG of all time, Zelda BOTW and some rather impressive sales figures for the console. Launching with that killer app was a very smart move and there is no doubting it shifted a lot of hardware; that said though it is just one game and it isn’t for everyone. Zelda lacks that element of fun with friends which people have flocked to Nintendo for over the decades, and it was very much aimed at hardcore fans wanting to take their favourite single-player adventure on the move. Charging in now with absolute gusto hoping to change all that is the much loved and frankly fantastic party game, Mario Kart.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition is pitched as the most up-to-date and complete package to date, all available to be played at home or on the go, promising an unrivalled and fun gaming experience for Nintendo’s new little Switch. The pitch is indeed on the money and the Nintendo Switch just got its second killer app in as many months.
It’s fair to say that Mario Kart and its core principles haven’t really changed greatly over the many years and iterations, which is absolutely in no way a bad thing. The core gameplay is a three button, one stick affair - go faster in a go kart around a series of increasingly creative, bonkers tracks trying your damnedest to beat up to eleven other players (or a mix of human and cpu opponents) using skill, power-ups and a whole lot of good fortune. With the core in place, hugely entertaining and much loved, it is nice to see Nintendo opt for some improvements over the game’s original Wii U release here rather than just throw out a lazy port for their new shiny console - they might be small and never changing the core gameplay but they most definitely enhance the experience and the package as a whole. Taking the already fantastic Wii U version, and adding a whole host of new features, tracks and characters, not to mention including all of the DLC tracks previously sold separately for Wii U users, Mario Kart 8 on the Switch is the most comprehensive Mario Kart package available as well as being enhanced from both a graphical and performance perspective, not to mention you can now take it anywhere of course.
Out of the box there are forty-eight tracks to contend with so you can defy anyone who screams “it’s just a port, where’s the value?” and being able to play some Mario Kart on a train with your family and friends is something which at first feels novel but quickly moves onto feeling just right. In addition to the wealth of tracks, this new Switch version brings a few more tweaks to the party not seen in the original Wii U version including the ability to have double power-ups at once, allowing you to be a little more strategic with your power-up usage. There are also five new characters to play with, including Inkling boy and girl from the much loved Splatoon, and the battle modes feel much less tacked on they did with the Wii U version and are now a solid entry into the game options roster. Balloon battle returns as well as Bob-omb blast, a mode where it’s all bombs all the time, Coin Runner where you grab and hold as many coins as possible per race, and Shine Thief has players fighting it out to keep the shine until the timer runs out (effectively holding an item without getting hit). Added to this, the renegade roundup has two sides chasing after each other while piranha plants try to eat everyone. These modes really bolster the overall package and make everything feel not only more accessible than previously but also provide more variety for the players. Now not only can you race with all the family on the various speed modes, you can also try out a new fun variant, or link everyone together for an online battle, or even pass a little baby Joy-Con across the aisle on a crowded bus - Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has so much to offer.
The performance of the package as a whole is borderline flawless and wonderfully showcases the ability for you to change up from home to on-the-go easily, without any real recognisable downgrades happening. When docked the game runs at an excellent 1080p 60fps and when in handheld mode it maintains that resolution and framerate to a more than acceptable 720p 60fps. Seamlessly being able to not only move from the living room to an office or a train and keep on playing is once again a fantastic experience, boosted by the ability to detach both Joy-Cons, turn them sideways and immediately engage in some two player split-screen action on the fly with no noticeable slowdown or any other game degrading hardware or software issues. Should you want to compete against more players there is the possibility of playing with up to eight over Wi-Fi and twelve over LAN.
Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U was an excellent entry into the much loved franchise, providing a ton of gorgeous, often bonkers family fun for all to enjoy. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe gives players the second solid reason to go out and buy a Nintendo Switch by improving neatly upon something that was already fantastic with a deluxe package worthy of the name. Marrying arguably one of the most fun multiplayer racing games ever made with the ability to take it with you, unshackling you from the confines of the living room, is a delight. Only Nintendo could bring us a device and a game that can be played across the aisle on a packed train using teeny tiny controllers and be gloriously entertaining for the players and spectators alike. A truly fantastic experience and another killer app for the newly launched Nintendo Switch.