What Nintendo console launch is complete these days without a Mario Kart title? None, that’s what, which is why Nintendo are eager to get their latest mad-motoring handheld title, Mario Kart 3DS out in time for Christmas. We went hands-on with the racer earlier this week.
As well as obviously making use of the Nintendo 3DS’s glasses-free 3D visual capabilities, Mario Kart 3DS adds a whole host of brand new features into the party-racing title.
Most notable of all is the addition of flight and underwater sequences. So far at least, these haven’t been made into their own individual tracks, but pop up at key moments on regular ground-based driving tracks. Hit an otherwise-inconspicuous ramp, and out will pop a hanglider on the back of Mario’s motor, or a propeller as you dive into the murky depths of pool of water.
Both handle totally differently to the regular power-sliding mechanics of other Mario Kart titles. Getting airborne feels very much like Pilotwings, as you lose direct control over acceleration, and instead either glide softly through the air or plummet towards the ground to pick up speed.
Likewise, underwater sections see our handling dramatically altered, as hitting a bump sees you float momentarily through the water, before sliding towards the bottom. These short floaty sequences seemed to give us the benefit of avoiding track-based obstacles, compared to shooting along the silty bottom.
Often, the air, land and underwater sections will present themselves all at once, given you the option of breaking away from the pack and attempting an alternative route to the front of the pack. Though we were only offered one load-out in our demo session, it seems each kart will have the option of being equipped with different chassis builds, tires, and flight/propeller gear, though we’ll have to wait and see how they affect proceedings.
In terms of the 3D effect, it’s more subtle than we expected with Mario Kart 3DS. Most notable when a power-up creeps up on you from behind or you overtake an opponent, for the most part its not intrusive and comfortable. That’s with the exception of the ink-blot attack, the whole point of which is to disorientate riders, which it does very well in Mario Kart 3DS. The inky black-spots, which obscure your view of the track, works particularly well here as it seems to sit infront of all the other onscreen action thanks to the 3D effect.
Other than that, it’s business as usual for Mario Kart 3DS, which is no bad thing. Expect shortcuts, power-ups and cheating opponents aplenty, as the red shell of death once again foils you just before you see the chequered flag.