It’s Mario Kart. In your living room. What could possibly go wrong?
Welcome to the world of “augmented reality racing." It would not have taken a genius to predict the eternal innovators at Nintendo would be the ones to bring it to us.
Mario Kart Live is now the 15th instalment in this legendary series, and is revolutionary in its approach to gaming on the Switch.
Developed by Velan Studios, Home Circuit uses physical radio-controlled cars rigged with cameras that respond to how the player plays in-game. It forms part of Nintendo’s spectacular line-up to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Super Mario franchise. And, after 35 years of hard work providing us with some of the best video games of all time, now Nintendo is asking that we share the load.
It is up to you to build stages by placing the four gates around your room to make checkpoints, which, when driven through, advance you onto the next lap. Each race is five laps and the game also comes with arrows, which can be used to indicate to the player where they need to drive.
Original and well executed
Straight off the bat I have to say this is one of the most original and excellently executed ideas I have seen in a long time.
Creating tracks is so much fun, and adds a real creative element to Mario Kart, in the spirit of Nintendo Labo. But it is not without its limitations.
Maximising what Mario Kart Live has to offer - even just enjoying the basics - will hinge on things like the space available to you, the strength of your wifi and even your flooring. If the Switch is too far from the RC cars (around five metres) you could experience connection issues. So you will - more often than not - need to be at the heart of the action.
Thankfully, with the Switch being handheld, you are not limited to the room in which your console resides. And carpets are a big no-no here. But, find yourself a decent surface and think outside the box for course setup and design, and this can bring hours and hours of fun.
Not a gimmick that loses its novelty
As a 38 year old man I was captivated by seeing how well the go-kart toy replicated the on-screen Mario Kart experience. It felt like witchcraft!
That might have a lot to do with the fact that I, like many of you, have lived through every generation of this gaming Goliath. So seeing it brought to life like this is magical. But I can’t imagine any young kid that won’t also fall instantly in love.
There are lots of customisation options to unlock, and the fact you can race against up to four others is great, but probably a touch impractical in reality for most.
My biggest peeve is the fact that the Grand Prix races are repetitive. You race the same track layout over and over. The AI isn't great but I do feel that the game, while it can be enjoyed by all ages, is definitely aimed at the younger age groups.
There is a very real future in this and, as long as your surroundings allow it, there is so much scope for variety and longevity. It’s not a gimmick that loses its novelty too quickly.
Time is the key here. Put the time into creating a really carefully thought out track and you will be rewarded with a level of satisfaction that you won’t believe.
Available to purchase here