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Mario Kart 7 Review - 3DS

7.5
Gameplay: 8 stars 8
Graphics: 8 stars 8
Audio: 5 stars 5
Multiplayer: 7 stars 7
Innovation: 7 stars 7
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Introduction

Mario Kart is one of those franchises Nintendo rolls out once per generation, and each time the formula is tweaked a little bit to show off the new abilities of the new platform. With the DS, it was two screens online play, while for the Wii it was massive online matches and motion controls. Now that the game is on the 3DS, it’s time to make the most of some fancy hardware with 3D visuals and the best online play yet.

Gameplay

It’s surprising, in a way, that despite the series’ esteemed past portable entries, I’ve never really been sucked into a handheld version. Mario Kart, to me, is about sitting on a couch with three other people and screaming at them as they hit you with a blue shell. The idea of playing a match on the bus or in the car never met those same highs of playing battle mode for four hours straight. So despite enjoying much of Mario Kart DS, I found its longevity beyond trying all the new tracks and taste testing the laggy online play to be rather limited.

Yet here sits Mario Kart 7, packed with more features than Mario Kart 64 had back in the day, approaching a console experience in the palm of your soon to be cramped hands. We all know how it works – kart racing, four tracks to a cup, and a ton of wacky locations and items to spice things up. But can it capture the freneticism, the sense of community, of narrow victories and rivalry? In a word, no.

That’s not to say that Mario Kart 7 isn’t the best of the handheld Mario Karts, nor the best in the series since perhaps Double Dash!! It trounces the insipid and increasingly uninteresting Mario Kart Wii in about every way, which in large part is due to the efforts of an A grade Nintendo team and the AAA Retro Studios stepping in to lend a hand. It’s just that despite recognising the many things it does right, it never clicked into the mode of “I can’t stop playing this”.

Much of that is due to the 3DS itself. With fingers splayed around the edge and, more to the point, the screen having to be held in a very narrow range quite close to your face., it’s uncomfortable. You’ll finish a game and then realise how much you’ve tensed up, clenched your hands, and contorted your body to keep in the pristine position for optimal playing. For some reason, perhaps because the system is kind of top-heavy, I need to support the lower half with both of my pinky fingers. If you’re holding the L trigger to drag an item behind you, and the R trigger to drift, and of course steering and accelerating too, it becomes painful within the space of a single race. This singlehandedly kills any potential it may have had for a marathon gaming session, either alone or with friends.

That aside, the depth of features and quality of design ...

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