‘Mario Kart Tour’ review

Nintendo just released a Mario Kart game for mobile platforms, called, “Mario Kart Tour.” I’m not going to lie, when I first heard this, I almost lost it. In my mind, there was almost no way this game could work. “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” is already playable on the go, thanks to the Switch, and I just didn’t see a need for a mobile Mario Kart game. At the start, I was mildly annoyed that Nintendo would put one of my favorite games on mobile just for money.

Then I saw how the game played, and things got a whole lot more complicated. You see, my first real experience with this game was watching my friends play it at lunch. After just a minute of viewing, I could already tell something was off. The swipe controls were comically bad, and you had to play the game vertically. My blood was boiling. How could they make such a good game awful. YOU HAD ONE JOB NINTENDO!!! ONE JOB!!!

I put off playing the game for another week, until finally I couldn’t put it off anymore. Begrudgingly, I fired up the app. The first thing I noticed was that they randomly give you a character. I got Toad, which is good, because he’s my favorite. Still, I don’t like any system that practically forces you to play as someone you don’t want to.

Lakitu, that floating turtle on the cloud, acted as my tutorial. I mentioned how the swipe controls are bad, but here’s the real kicker: it isn’t even explained well. The tutorial simply says, “swipe which way you want to turn,” not “swipe from the opposite side to turn a little bit. Also, it doesn’t work sometimes.” 

Controls aren’t even close to the only issue with this game. First of all, it looks like garbage, even for a mobile game. All of the textures look blocky and unfinished, and take one moment to look off the track, you can see how little thought was given to the art.

Oh, but you can’t even look off the track, because the game is played vertically. Look at every other Mario Kart game; they are all played on TVs so of course they are played horizontally. But “Mario Kart Tour” is played the same way you play “Knife Hit.” Your view of the road is extremely limited, and this means you have less time to dodge or maneuver around other players.

Whoops, silly me! There are no other players! This game doesn’t support multiplayer yet! But for some reason that we mere mortals cannot begin to comprehend, it still pairs you up with other players names! This means you are racing against CPUs, but you still have to have an internet connection to play because it needs to load in their names! 

This is stupid for multiple reasons. One, it means people can’t play a mobile game outside of their house unless they want to use data. Two, it means that when you pause the game, the other races, which are computers might I remind you, still keep racing, just like if you paused any other online game. But remember, it’s not an online game! Nintendo’s strange desire to have us on an internet connection whenever we play this game is hurting the game design because it makes us commit to a race.

But the most bizarre thing of all is when you leave the match, the game pauses for real. Let that sink in. When you press the pause button in game, all it does is bring up the settings menu. But when you leave the app, the game freezes and waits indefinitely for your return, as long as you don’t close the window. All this horrid system does is let the game keep running when you want to change settings, or adjust the music volume.

That was it. After a single race (which now only have two laps, for some odd reason), I was ready to write this game off as a cheesy cash grab that people would spend money on because it’s, legally speaking, “Mario Kart.”

But then, after my first race, I went into settings and saw this:

You can change to motion controls. I don’t even remember why I even went into settings, as soon as I saw this, I turned it on and was in the next race.

As it turns out, the motion controls aren’t half bad. You still have to play the game vertically, which sucks because when you tilt the device, the position of the screen changes, and sometimes you can’t see it when turning. There is no sensitivity adjuster, so you’re stuck like this until they release an update.

But, as luck would have it, I found myself enjoying the game a lot more. It was nice to have some semblance of actual control over my Kart, and before I knew it I had completed the first world. The game is actually kind of fun.

Of course, I still have a lot to go over. First and foremost, the app is free, but does have in-app purchases. There are two in-game currencies, gold coins and rubies. The thing is, you can only buy rubies, just like in “Clash of Clans,” where you can only buy gems. However, in “Clash of Clans,” the other two currencies (gold and elixir) actually have uses in-game other than to spin loot boxes (which we’ll talk about in a sec). In “Mario Kart Tour,” rubies are just a way of confusing the player in how much money they’re spending. 

Oh yeah, rubies can also be spent on loot boxes, sorry, “Mystery Pipes,” which give you items like new racers and Karts. Of course it does the tutorial thing, where it gives you free in-game currency and lets you spin it for free. This is stupid, because as of right now, there is no way to access the stats of the Karts, so any more Karts is just for aesthetic. I was lucky to get my favorite character in the tutorial, but I can’t really imagine playing as someone I don’t like the entire time.

Even so, this game is still fun. Most of the gripes I mentioned can be overlooked, and the game isn’t awful when you have motion controls on. If you just don’t spend money on the game, and enjoy it as a mobile game, I recommend downloading it.

My final rating for this game is a 7/10, when I was expecting something like a 3/10.

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