If there was one game I was looking forward to the most at EuroGamer Expo, it would have been Mario Kart 7. I’ve always been a fan of the series, but if I was asked to say which one was the best I couldn’t tell you. They all have their highs and their lows. With word that Retro Studios (Metroid Prime Trilogy, Donkey Kong Country Returns) had assisted on the development, namely track design. I was eager to see how this fresh pair of eyes had either added or taken away from the finest karting game out there!..
When I finally approached a free 3DS the demo had already began with someone choose Mario as the driver, I was too eager to wait any longer so plunged right in finishing picking the kart, wheels and wings The race had begun, Lakitu flew above me in his little white fluffy cloud holding his starting lights. The familiar count down, began…3…2…1…
I failed to do a power boost, but as with every new iteration of Mario Kart, theres a slight change in how to execute the desired manouver to give you that extra little oompf. It instantly became clear this was the course with probably the most coverage. It began with a wire mesh track tightly wound to the side of a mountain. With some huge warp-pipe towers in the distance. Just before entering a tunnel the first batch of mystery item boxes appeared.
During my time with the game I didn’t get to experience any new items, I’d like to think this was because the majority of the time I was in first place and as usual had to make due with banana after banana after banana!
Whilst driving through the tunnel I realised how beautiful the game is. It looks more colourful, vibrant and solid than Mario Kart Wii. Light streamed in from one side, incredibly detailed textures all with eight cards flying through and shells flying everywhere! Within seconds I had left the tunnel and started hurtling down a slope towards a huge ramp . I had seen this section many times in trailers. I suddenly thought – how do I use my wings to glide through the air? I didn’t have time to work it out, I was suddenly flying through the clouds, collecting coins and avoiding jutting warp-pipes. I was relieved to discover that the wings execute automatically once you’re airborne. The same with the under water propellers, seen later on, on another course.
Upon landing I must have angled my kart correctly as I was rewarded with a speed boost. A very simple but much welcomed addition, which feels natural. After a brisk drive through a forest and a sharp turn, I was then presented with a huge hill to climb, with the occasional boost pad. Large boulders suddnly started rolling down the hill towards me, with the 3D on, this was quite scary! I started frantically twisting my whole body in order to avoid them. This level proves yet again, that 3D does add to games, maybe not every game, but you can tell from the polish throughout that this game was designed with 3D in mind.
There were a total of four levels to sample, the second has a tropical beach theme, and is the first example of the new underwater karting. This works exactly how you’d imagine, but probably not as slow. As soon as you submerge your kart under the waves the propeller comes out and whilst steering definitely feels a little sluggish, your speed doesn’t decrease, making this new mechanic a welcome change rather than an awkward track you’d always avoid. The third track is based on Donkey Kong Country Returns, so suprisingly enough it has a jungle setting, apart from the scenery there isn’t much that sets it apart from any other course. A few of the Tiki’s roam the track which would stop you dead if you collided with them, same with some course-lining DK barrels. Saddly Diddy Kong doesnt appear and start following you. Towards the end of this track there is another huge jump where you can get lots of air with your wings, or you can fall into the water and propel your way towards the finish line.
One aspect of the game Nintendo has yet to show or discuss is the multi-player. This I feel has lacked in every iteration except Super Mario Kart on the SNES and Mario Kart 64. If Nintendo has an ounce of sense they will use Retro to help design the multi-player levels. It would also be great if they will incorporated the video-streaming feature from Starfox 64 3D, so you can see your friends faces when they hear the fatal blue shell you just fired heading their way!
I didn’t get to play the fourth course, but I can tell you now, I’m going to play the game every waking hour upon its release! The whole game feels brand new and fresh, Nintendo are definitely on to a winner, and I’m sure Retro deserve a huge amount of credit.
I’ve added a few off-screen images I managed to get below…