The first Mario Kart title, Super Mario Kart, was released back in 1992. In this time, we’ve seen many iterations, spanning many different consoles. Since the success of Pokémon Go, Nintendo has become a lot more interested in utilising mobile technologies. Super Mario Jump was great, but today, we’re going to check out Mario Kart Tour, which came out fairly recently. I managed to snap the game up on the day of release and hey, it’s another free title!
We’ll skip the usual story section, as this is a Mario Kart game. There’s no story to be had, except that some of the Mario universe have come together, jumped into some race karts and away they go. If we had to make up a story, uh, let’s see… Bowser said something really mean to Mario, like “you are rubbish at driving a go kart”. Mario took offense to this, so he and his friends want to beat Bowser in a race, to prove how rubbish Bowser is.
Not a bad story, right..? Moving swiftly onto the main review.
Making a broad assumption here, you probably know what Mario Kart is and how it’s played. If you don’t, the basics are that you play as a Mario character, such as Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, Toad etc. Your character gets inside of a kart and you have to get from point A to point B, whilst racing against other characters (who may be controlled by a CPU or another player). Your goal is to get first place, or at least within the top 3 ideally.
In Mario Kart Tour, you have the same goal. However, the gameplay changes from using a controller to just using your phone. At first, I was concerned that I’d have to tilt my phone back and forth, which would have been a weird thing to look at – Thankfully, those fears were alleviated, as you simply just have to swap left or right for the direction you want to move in. However, you’ll notice I omitted swiping upwards.
You press and hold down at the start of a race to get yourself a rocket boost. This rocket boost gives you an advantage off the starting line, but then from there you simply move yourself left and right by swiping. This is an incredibly simplified process, much easier than the Mario Kart we’re used to. I used the “manual mode”, which sees you drift around the corners. This gives you a speed boost if you do it well without bashing into walls.
Along the way, you need to collect power ups/items. These items are used to varying effects. Single-use speed boosting mushrooms, squidlings who pour ink on your opponents screens, Koopa shells which knock your opponents and spins them around – The range of items seem a bit smaller than that of the main game series (I’ve yet to encounter a Bullet Bill, for instance). Collectible coins are also found across the maps, which are used to buy more characters/karts. You can also collect more racers and karts by earning a swipe at the pipe.
Not too long ago, I invested in a new phone, a Sony Xperia 1. It’s an immense phone with ridiculously good graphics handling. That said, I’m glad I’ve got this new phone, as graphically this game is beautiful to look at. It’s got the charm of a Mario Kart game, with the brightness and vibrancy you’re used to. The characters don’t feel hanidcapped by the limited technology, that’s for sure. Here’s how it looks:
Bright, crisp and cheerful – and that’s just the menu. The audio of Mario Kart Tour is exceptional, exactly the type of quality you’d expect from a Nintendo title. If you’ve played any previous Mario Kart title, then you sort of know what to expect already. It’s chirpy, it’s happy and it gets you in a good mood before you go around slamming Koopa shells into your closest of friends. How pleasant.
This is indeed a Mario Kart game, but it’s been watered down quite a bit. Couple this with microtransactions, you may be forgiven for thinking it isn’t particularly good. However, that’s not what I’m going to say, as the game performs exceptionally well. Graphically it’s gorgeous and the gameplay, whilst a lot more straightforward than you may want from a Mario Kart game, is still quite fun.
I’d argue that a Switch version of Mario Kart would be much better, however in all honesty, this isn’t a bad little title. It’s quite fun, it’s really silly and it has the charm of a proper Mario Kart title. Watered down perhaps, but let’s be honest, I don’t think you play Mario Kart for its serious technical limitations. Pick up your phone, get racing – And share your thoughts in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.