‘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.

‘A Link to the Past’ Review

 

A ‘Link to the Past’ Review

So for the 1st anniversary of the Nintendo Switch online service, they finally released Super Nintendo games for the Switch. I have been waiting for these games forever, and now that they’re here, I decided it would be a good idea to review one of my favorites: The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past. This game is incredible and ahead of its time, and I’m about to explain why.

Graphics

A lot of gamers today are super obsessed with good graphics, which is ridiculous considering how many people play Minecraft. I grew up playing a Wii, so I never really had the luxury of caring about graphics.

I initially thought that the pixelated graphics would be a detriment to the game. I was wrong.

A Link to the Past was originally released on a 16-bit system, so you would think it wouldn’t hold up today. You would be wrong in that assumption. A Link to the Past looks great for it’s time, and a cartoonish theme can be distinguished from the pixels. 

The biggest complaint I had with how the game looked was the repetitive assets. Every tree, rock, and bush looks identical, and at times it got a little boring. 

However, all the repetition makes you notice when something is different. A single tree on the map is slightly lighter than the others, so it’s no surprise that running into it reveals a secret cave.

Sound Design and Music

A Link to the Past is part of the Zelda games, a series that is known for its stunning music. Even though this is only the third game in the series, it has some of the best music. 

The main Overworld theme is a new rendition of the Overworld theme from the first game, created to sound triumphant to fit the setting, while not being so good or loud that it distracts the player.

The Dungeon theme isn’t as good, but it serves a more important purpose than sounding awesome. The dungeons are the most difficult areas of the game, and they have a sense of danger that you don’t feel in the overworld, even when exploring dangerous areas. The dungeon music also makes you feel relieved when you exit a dungeon, and makes you feel like you’ve just been in a movie theatre and just went into the sun for the first time in hours.

What I really love about this game is that it feels satisfying to hit an enemy with your sword, all because of the sound design. Every successful hit from a sword rewards you with what sounds like a tiny vibration, and a miss is signified with a little dink. It actually frustrates me every time I miss an easy shot because of that sound, and incentivizes me to improve my aim and therefore my skill in the game.

Story

I love a Link to the Past’s approach at storytelling. You start out on a set quest that you have to complete before the world is open for you to explore. This quest sets up the main villain of the campaign, the ways you can attack, how to use an item, how to solve puzzles, how to interact with the environment, and most importantly, rewards your exploration. 

When you do get out of that first dungeon, you have options. The main quest tells you to go to Kakariko Village to talk to this lady, but you can completely ignore it and head for the next dungeon, or explore the world to get upgrades. 

Upgrades and hidden items play an important role in exploration. As an adventurer, you want to become more powerful, so naturally you seek out as many of those upgrades as you can. However, some items require certain items to get, items which can only be found in dungeons. This invisibly makes the player want to do more dungeons to get more loot, and that’s how they provide you with story.

Gameplay

A Link to the Past features a top down zoomed out camera angle, which is perfect because it shows just enough of what is ahead on the map and gives you enough time to maneuver around enemies and other obstacles.

The main weapon in Zelda is the sword, but every other item you get is just as useful. You have a green magic meter on the side of your screen, which limits how much you can use some magic. If I am being totally honest, the magic meter is a bit too limiting, even with the upgrade that halves how much magic you need.

The dungeons are one of the greatest parts of the game. Each one provides a unique theme and has interesting puzzles. My biggest complaint is that many of the enemies are reused, and it got a little frustrating to kill the same things so many times. 

The puzzles in the dungeons are great. They require a perfect balance of using your items and using your brain. If you get around to playing this game, try not to look up the solutions for any of the dungeons. The moment of satisfaction you get when you figure it out yourself is worth it.

I Just Like This Game

I just have to say it, this game is awesome. It’s one of the best additions to a legendary game series, expanding on the first of its line and setting the formula for the dozens of games that followed it. 

Every random feature of A Link to the Past amuses me. There’s this one part where you drain a lake in the light world to gain access to the dungeon, and it’s a great way to do world building.

In that same lake, you can find a fish that you can carry for absolutely no reason. If you bring it to a man in Kakariko Town, he’ll randomly give you a bunch of items in exchange for it. I have no idea why this is a thing, but it’s awesome.

The Master Sword, the main weapon of the game, is talked about in literal terms. People describe its power, and going back to what I said earlier, you want to find it to make yourself more powerful.

There’s this mushroom you can find in the Lost Woods, and if you bring it to the witch she’ll give you the magic powder. You can sprinkle this on monsters to turn them into weird creatures, an example being it turns electric slimes into these goofy monsters with handlebar mustaches. You can also sprinkle it on anti-fairies to turn them back into fairies to heal yourself.

Every item has a double use. The Cane of Somalia can be used to create blocks to hold down switches, but you can throw those blocks and make them explode by pressing the Y button again. The Hookshot can be used to zip across rooms and over gaps, but can also be used to stun enemies.

A lot of people complain about the difficulty of games that came out before they were born, and most of the time, they’re right. The original Super Mario Bros game is difficult, so much so that I’ve never beaten it. But A Link to the Past doesn’t have any super huge difficulty spikes, and the more you play the more you naturally get better in certain situations. 

They could’ve made this game very dependent on items, but instead it was very freeform. The item you get in a dungeon is sometimes optional, and sometimes you don’t need it for that dungeon but the next one. Sometimes you need to beat a dungeon with an item you got in the overworld. There’s this one point where you need to grab a book to translate the text outside a dungeon, but that same book can be used to translate certain texts throughout the land to gain magical pendants.

Every sword upgrade is found in a different way. The Master Sword is discovered by collecting three pendants from different dungeons. When you finally get to it, the moment is epic, as the three pendants collide and you finally draw the Sword that seals the Darkness. You can temper your sword by rescuing one of the dwarves trapped in the dark world. He’ll power up your sword as thanks. You can increase the damage output again by throwing it in a fairy pool.

Everything about this game is unique, and it never pulls the same trick twice. I’ve only put it down for a few days, and I’m already itching to play it again. If you have a Nintendo Switch, or a SNES classic, or even a Gameboy Advance, I highly suggest playing this game.

My final rating for this game is a 9/10.

Spider-Man has left the MCU

The Web-Head is out of the Marvel Universe

Ah, Spiderman. He first became a hit in the public eye in the 2002 movie Spider-Man, starring Toby Maguire, and the movie was so popular it got two sequels, in 2004 and 2007 respectively.

The franchise has been rebooted twice in the 2010s, first with The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012, and it’s sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man, in 2014, both of which starred Andrew Garfield.

In 2016, the web-head returned as Tom Holland in the movie Captain America: Civil War. A year later, he got his own movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming. The following year in 2018, he was in the movie Avengers: Infinity War.

Another version of Spider-Man came out that year in an animated movie produced by Sony Pictures called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which featured all sorts of different Spider-People from his iterations in the comics.

Earlier this year, the Tom Holland Spider-Man appeared in both Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Last month, Sony Pictures, the studio that has the film rights to the Spider-Man movie franchise, declared that they were no longer allowing Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since 2016, Sony had let the Tom Holland Spider-Man appear in five movies of the MCU, appearing alongside other characters owned by Disney, such as Iron Man and Captain America. But now that he’s gone, how will the MCU go on without him, and what does Sony plan to do with the Tom Holland character?

In my opinion, this is a good time for this to happen, if there ever is a good time for a beloved character to leave a film franchise. Sony Pictures has proved themselves more than capable of creating a wonderful Spider-Man movie, with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse being the perfect example.

I believe that the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies can continue without the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His first stand alone movie really only featured two characters from other MCU movies: Happy and Iron Man. His next movie, Spider-Man: Far From Home, featured Happy, Nick Fury, and a few other various members of S.H.I.E.L.D. (that turned out to be Skrulls in disguise).

Since Iron Man is dead, I believe the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies could continue very easily by simply removing them from the story. The Skrulls on Earth could become a plot in another MCU movie (Dr. Strange, perhaps?), and Happy could simply dump Aunt May offscreen to get him out of the plot.

Done correctly, this could easily tie up any plot threads to separate the Spider-Man universe and MCU. I even believe it would make narrative sense, seeing as how Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has grown to fight for himself over the course of his movies, and I think that removing any other Avengers, or even Nick Fury, from his story would make it a more interesting and personal story.

Is there any chance of Sony actually doing this and continuing the Tom Holland Spider-Man story? Probably not, but a boy can dream.

One of the problems that people often bring up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that the focus of a broader world makes the audience more interested in how the story will play out in the long run rather than how good the film actually was. For an example of this, Black Panther, another MCU film, had almost no other characters from the MCU except in the end credits scene. Black Panther was an insanely popular movie, making $1.3 Billion dollars and currently has a 92% liked it score on Metacritic.

Heck, the movie is so popular there is a poster of it in the classroom in which I am writing this article. Black Panther did well because it could stand by itself without being associated with any of the other Marvel movies, meaning that people who had never seen a MCU film in their life could enjoy it without always asking what was going on. That was my experience with the movie, and it reignited my interest in superhero movies again, causing me to watch Avengers: Infinity War and eventually bringing me in with the Avengers: Endgame hype.

The way I see it, Spider-Man leaving the MCU will be Marvel’s great test. Many people felt the MCU reached a natural conclusion with Avengers: Endgame, and many people decided that they were done with the MCU films.

Spider-Man was a huge property for Sony when he was in the MCU, and him leaving alongside all of the characters that died in Avengers: Endgame, like Iron Man and Black Widow, is going to put a huge strain on the fan base.

If Marvel keeps trying to interconnect their properties in an elaborate web of interconnected properties, new fans will be hard to find and current fans will eventually get bored. However, if they start to be more creative with the stories they can tell with just one superhero and his sidekicks, like they did with Black Panther, then people might still be interested even if the studio took a hit.