Note: For our previous hands-on impressions of Mario Kart 8, check here.
It isn’t a Nintendo system without a Mario Kart game, so there’s no surprise that the Wii U will be hosting Mario Kart 8. A demo station was set up at E3 for attendees to sample a three-race showdown, showing off the anti-gravity portions of the race and the improved gliding mechanics. Naturally, if someone’s got a race running, I’m going to compete.
The Mario Kart 8 demo was a single player experience, which I found a bit odd, given how much of a multiplayer experience it is and that the final game will allow up to 12 people in a race. It was probably because Nintendo wanted people to really see how the Wii U Gamepad works to control the game. There were two options, one where you use the entire Gamepad as a wheel, complete with a horn button on the touch screen for startling opponents, and the other is the standard control scheme where people use buttons to steer, accelerate, and such.
I made a valiant attempt at using the Gamepad as a steering wheel for Mario Kart 8, but it wasn’t going to happen. I got through the first lap, but it just felt too imprecise for me. So, I switched over to standard controls and made the touchscreen show the tracks’ maps. These controls were much more comfortable and it actually felt like drifting was somewhat easier.
As is usual with a Mario Kart circuit, a player goes through three tracks and is deemed a winner or loser based on the performance in each of them. I wasn’t given the exact names for the ones I experienced, but one was something of a town, another looked like a variation of Mario Circuit and the final one seemed like it was either Luigi’s Mansion or a general Boo mansion. Only two of the three felt really memorable though, and that’s because I managed to find secret paths in them, even during this brief play session.
The first memorable Mario Kart 8 track was in a town setting, as I had said, and had a series of streetcars going through it. My first time around the track, I was too busy with using the Gamepad as a steering wheel to notice. The second time around, I saw that I would be able to make it onto the tracks and go through the gated area they were entering. On the third track, it happened. I managed to make it through this gate and was rewarded with a shortcut that put me ahead of the rest of the crowd.
The ghostly mansion was quite nice as well, offering a chance to go upside-down, underwater and gliding through the air. There was also a brief shortcut here, after entering the mansion, where someone could make a sharp left into a small passageway to avoid going around a longer curve. It wasn’t as influencial as the prior shortcut, but it was still something.
It’s in all the Mario Kart 8 tracks that I noticed something though. Nintendo had made a point during the presentation, saying the times when the tracks would turn upside down and vehicles would turn into something akin to hoverboards would feel different while driving. Honestly, though, I didn’t notice much of a difference.
Maybe it was because when I’d chosen Peach, she’d automatically been on her bike. Perhaps the demo build didn’t have all the elements in place. I suppose my choosing to go with the standard controls had some influence. I don’t know, but it didn’t feel any different. Maybe a tad more “drifty” than usual, but Peach was performing the same way as she did on regular terrain.
Mario Kart 8 will be coming to the Wii U next spring, so we have some time to wait. I know it seems like a long ways away, but it really isn’t that bad. Besides, all good things are worth waiting for and we can always use another installment in a solid series.