We celebrated the Mario Kart series' twentieth birthday in Europe this week, and marked it with the first in what will hopefully become a semi-regular series of gaming showdowns - pitting the SNES original against its N64 successor. Of course, when it comes to picking a best Mario Kart game (let's face it, the portable ones rock the hardest), the GameCube's instalment - Double Dash - tends to be left out in the cold, having attempted to stuff the franchise with a number of seemingly-superfluous additions, and suffered some rather disappointing lapses when it comes to inventive design.
It says much about the game when the most enjoyable track in the whole thing turned out to be a simple oval. After the excellent driving mechanics exhibited in Super Mario Kart, and the superb track layouts in MK64 afforded by the 3D engine, Double Dash's recourse was to feed more items into the mix, have two characters per kart, and throw as many colourful things into the ideas blender as possible, whilst nixing the hop so favoured by time trial aficionados.
There's an argument to be made that Mario Kart: Double Dash was, to borrow a fellow writer's description, a complete and utter mess.
But mess can be fun. Food fights, mud wrestling, that scene in Zombieland where the protagonists go into that abandoned store and smash everything to pieces. There's a reason why Double Dash was stuck in our Gamecube at uni for years, and that reason was named 'Baby Park'.Click here to read more...
This week marked the 20th anniversary of Super Mario Kart's release in Europe - a game that would fuel an entire genre for years to come and birth a franchise that would see a new instalment across each subsequent Nintendo platform, both home console and portable. Many would come to try to claim Mario Kart's throne, many mascots and their chums would strive to prove that they could do kart racing better, but there really is nothing quite so appealling or so addictive as hooning around a gloriously designed set of tracks plucked from Nintendo's archives of excellence.
On SNES, N64, Gamecube, and Wii we punched the air in victory, often our friends in defeat; we prayed that the smiling gods would bless us with the right colour of shell or adverse weather conditions; we learnt how to make blue sparks fly from our wheels, and how to time a feather or a mushroom perfectly for maximum advantage. We learned to hate Lakitu's smug face as he fished us out of the ether for the tenth time on Rainbow Road. There was always time for just one more race, and never a good enough excuse to put the controller down. Across four generations of Nintendo consoles, it's been the standard-setter for pick-up-and-play multiplayer goodness, for ghost-busting time trials, and vehicle-based battling shenanigans.
But naturally, reminiscing about the series led to a spot of verbal handbags. Which was better: Super Mario Kart or Mario Kart 64?And so, in the first of what we hope might prove to be a series of semi-regular features, we bring you the premier instalment of...The Showdown. Forget the Clash of the Titans, forget the Rumble in the Jungle, here stand two games and two champions - two arguments for two causes. But only one can be crowned victorious. We'll stake our claims, and then we'll let you decide the winner...Click here to read more...
Platforms: Xbox 360 | Playstation 3 | Vita | 3DS | Wii | Wii U (reviewed)
Developers: Sumo Digital
Sonic is pretty swift, right? Some might argue that he’s faster than any car, plane or boat, and believe that Transformed is a bit of a moot point. There’s also a contingent who reckon he can’t handle Usain Bolt over 100m. Whichever side you’re backing, All-Stars Racing Transformed is very much 'a thing', and a bloody good thing at that.
At first glance, you’d be pardoned for thinking this is a simple Mario Kart rip-off. It’s got an ensemble cast of SEGA icons sat in the drivers seat, throwing projectiles at one another around a SEGA influenced track in order to place first. It probably sounds familiar because…it is familiar.
Transformed, however, manages to reinvent the wheel (yeah, screw it, pun intended!) just a little bit. After completing a lap, you’ll drive through a blue gate which magically transforms your trusty old kart into something more sea-faring, or a little more air-friendly and death-defying. Incredibly, the handling of these vehicles all feel individual and unique and help set the framework for an exciting race-fest that serves as an excellent single or multiplayer title.
The kart is a delight to control; drifting around corners with ease, weaving in-between traffic, and responding elegantly to each track’s layout and environment. Similar in vein to Mario Kart, you can choose from an ensemble of vintage SEGA characters. From the spikey blue hedgehog to Ulala and Vyse from Skies of Arcadia.
Even Ristar shows up to wave the chequered flag.Click here to read more...
UPDATE 12/12/12: Down to £17.99 today.
Though perhaps not the best karting racer out there, LBPK does have a few things going for it, best of which come in the form of the extensive creation suite. A must-buy for fans of ModNation Racers, it'll appeal to the Builders amongst you too, and at below £20 is well worth a look. Splendid spot from sunnyfiesta on HUKD.
Developers: Codemasters Birmingham
I’ve got a confession to make; I was quite looking forward to reviewing this game. Firstly because last week I reviewed LittleBigPlanet Karting – a fairly decent game but a missed opportunity to deliver a great karting experience – and was looking for another karting game to fill the void. Secondly I’m personally a fan of F1 anyway, so I was more intrigued how they had linked in the concept and feel of F1 – a very serious and detailed sport – into the fun and quirky world of console kart racing.
First impressions before I’d touched the controller were pleasing. The visual style was going about its business with a sense of bright colours, and cartoony driver models – making it look like all the racers were out of Team America, in a good way. And the intro movie showcasing the game seemed to suggest vibrant wacky locations with lots of character, mayhem on the track with items going every which way and the drivers being as camp as a box of tents. So things were looking good. But if ever the adage of “looks can be deceiving” needed a PS3 game to embody it, then F1 Race Stars is it.
F1 All Stars sets itself up like the majority of other kart racers out there. There are a variety of tracks to race around, with gold, silver and bronze trophies awarded to podium finishes. And as is customary in these games, there are various items you can pick up throughout the courses to help you to victory or hinder your opponent’s chances. The instant attraction to this game though is that you can choose to race as your favourite F1 star from this season’s crop of racers. So if you feel like showing Vettel and the lads that Karthekayan really can win a race, then this is your best bet.Click here to read more...
As LittleBigPlanet Karting has recently emerged, finally providing a mascot-backed karter for the current generation of Sony fans, we thought it'd be nice to look back on another game that tried to deliver a Mario Kart rival for a platform not owned by Nintendo.
Released in 1994 by Beavis Soft and Apogee, Wacky Wheels was supposed to be the PC's answer to Super Mario Kart. Of course you don't go up against the champion without some serious firepower, so Beavis Soft brought a comprehensively packed karter to the table, combined with a shareware model that often proved too enticing to pass up.
Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS3 (Move compatible)
Developers: United Front Games | Media Molecule
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Mario, Sonic, Diddy Kong, Crash Bandicoot, they’ve all done it. They’ve all made the apparently natural step from save-the-day platformer to small-time motorsport enthusiast. In the same way that a hit BBC sitcom will undoubtedly have an unnecessary Xmas special, there seems a sort of inevitability now around any key platformer franchise branching out into the kart racer genre. So it’s no real surprise then to see Sackboy – arguably Sony’s flagship platformer mascot - in his very own karting game. But does LittleBigPlanet Karting do Sackboy or the genre justice, or is it just another ill-thought out cash-in for the Xmas period? Let’s see.
The first thing you notice when starting up LittleBigPlanet Karting is that it is very much a LittleBigPlanet game. Right down to the Pod, the Popit menu system, the spherical world map screens, even right down to the calming narration of Stephen Fry. In fact if it wasn’t for the Kart sitting in the Pod with Sackboy, you’d be forgiven for mistaking this game as LittleBigPlanet 3. And whilst branding is important – it is a LittleBigPlanet game after all – if you think back to good karting games of the past (the names at the top of the review should help) then these games take elements of their own games and apply them in a way that works within the karting genre. Whereas it feels like United Front Games and Media Molecule have tried to force the issue with some of their nods to LittleBigPlanet, to the point where those nods feel like a forceful head-butt to the face.
The first frustrating one of these is the necessity of unlocking each level in turn not only to progress to the next, but also to unlock the option of playing it online with others in a (up to) 8 player VS match. There’s nothing strictly wrong with having a certain amount of content locked at the start of a game, it gives a sense of progression and reward when it becomes available. But when those locked elements become stifling or frustrating to what feels natural, then something has gone wrong. In the same way it is a chore to unlock all characters for Super Smash Bros these days, just to enjoy the game as it was intended; it is also a chore in LittleBigPlanet Karting to expect the single player to be completed for all available VS mode matches to simply be unlocked.Click here to read more...
F1 Race Stars, the officially-licensed Formula One karting game from Codemasters Racing, is set to release this Friday. As you'd expect, there'll be many powerups to play with: from the relatively authentic KERS boost to turning your kart into a fizzy drink. I could elaborate on that last one, but you're probably better off watching the narrated (and rather humourous) gameplay trailers below.
We've got more details and screenshots in our F1 Race Stars release date details roundup.Click here to read more...
The sequel to the surprisingly ace Sonic & All-Stars Racing will boast a few Wii U-specific features when it hits the road on November 30th. Players can use the Gamepad touchscreen as a rear-view mirror, weapon panel or a personal screen for 5-player splitscreen.
Matt's Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed hands-on preview sheds more light on the new surfaces and dynamic vehicle transformations, which currently leaves Brendan foaming at the mouth in fits of unadulterated lust.
F1 Race Stars, the caricatured arcade kart racer featuring real-life F1 talent, has been officially dated for November 16th on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. You can indulge in an orgy of assets after the break, including a massive haul of screenshots and a brand new gameplay trailer.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS3 (tested) | Xbox 360 | Wii U (tested) | 3DS | PS Vita Developers: Sumo Digital Publishers: SEGA Sumo Digital are very upfront about their main point of comparison for Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, but then why wouldn't they be? Mario Kart is the undisputed king of the karting sub-genre, topping a small group of games that offer pick-up-and-play vehicular fun, that never takes itself too seriously, always gives you outlandish weapons to scupper the winning chances for those around you, and provides endless hours of multiplayer entertainment. But there's room for improvement, for new directions, new features, new opportunities, and it's here that SEGA are hoping Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed are hoping to fill some gaps.Click here to read more...
Sony have announced that the LittleBigPlanet Karting beta will begin on Tuesday 10th July. Keep a beady eye on your inboxes as the first round of lucky victors will start receiving beta codes in the next week or two, there'll be more to come throughout the month too, so don't be too disheartened if you're not in the initial rush.
The beta period ends on July 31st.
Nintendo have released a patch for Mario Kart 7, solving the glitches that allowed crafty players to take advantage of shortcut exploits contained in Wuhu Island Loop, Wuhu Mountain Loop, and GBA Bowser Castle 1.
You'll no longer be able to play online unless you have the patch (offline play is still possible without), and in order to get it you'll need to download the latest 3DS system update.