Nintendo’s venture into the mobile world continues with the long-awaited release of Mario Kart Tour. The household video game series gets its very own mobile app, but not in the traditional fashion.
Everyone knows in Mario Kart, your objective is to get first place, just like any typical “race.” Tour is somewhat different. Rather than first place being the ultimate winning factor, each race is like a stage where one must collect a certain amount of points to earn grand stars, the max being five per race (there are bonus challenges as well, with three being the max). Earning grand stars progressively unlocks more cups and rewards (which consists of characters, karts, gliders, coins and more). Getting first place isn’t necessarily essential, but it helps because placing first earns you a higher amount of points than placing lower, which would seem pretty obvious with this new point system.
Attempting to earn every single star made out to be easily addicting (more than I’d care to admit). All but one course are copies from the main series, but this surprisingly doesn’t make racing on them boring because of this game’s all new feel. Nintendo also implemented specific challenges which are satisfying to aim for.
The biggest concern when approaching a 3D mobile racing game is its controls, which work totally fine but take some getting used to. Acceleration is automatic, and steering is done by sliding left and right. Simply tap to use items.
As with many games, developers like to ease players into the experience by making the first levels generally easy, and this is no different with Tour. The first few levels are maybe a little too easy. They are so effortless in fact, struggling with the controls didn’t matter, as the points required to get the level’s five stars are especially low.
That doesn’t just apply with the first few levels, though. Many of the later levels feel like they aren’t skill-oriented in both reaching your goal, and not quite reaching your goal.
Each race has one or two specific karts, gliders, or characters that are deliberately better for using on that course. For characters, it’s number of items you get per item box, for karts, it’s a point multiplier, and for gliders, it’s a combo multiplier. Combos are done by performing actions like tricks and hitting opponents with items within a certain amount of time between each action.
This is where problems arise. It feels impossible to earn all 5 stars in the later levels unless you have the proper character/kart/glider unlocked. Nintendo falls into typical mobile game trappings of having crazy rare, obviously better, unlockable articles. These articles are unlocked with another mobile game trapping: the two currencies. The first currency is earned by playing the game and completing challenges (in this case, coins), and the second currency isn’t handed out as easily, and can usually be bought optionally with actual money (in this case, rubies). The fact that luck plays a minor factor is disappointing.
On the flipside, when I would try to intentionally drop places while aiming for challenges, it was strangely difficult. The mechanics aid the player so much that the only way to lose is to get hit by items, whether you want to or not.
With that, Mario Kart Tour is still the distinctively fun and wacky game of Mario Kart with several differences from the main series. It’s too bad that Nintendo has been settling on trends with their mobile games. I can’t confidently say if I’d enjoy the standard race format more than the point system presented here if it had been made that way, but one can tell that Nintendo made it this way for the sake of trying to milk a few bucks out of their players by substituting balanced vehicle and character stats for luck-based traits. There is apparently a multiplayer mode on the way, and who knows if they’ll try to milk a few more, or make it like the Mario Kart we all know.