Or playing with a tablet configuration
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is somewhat of a weird precedent for Nintendo.
The Wii U failed, for all intents and purposes, so they’re taking Mario Kart 8, a game that’s not even three years old and selling it again on the Switch as a faux “Game of the Year Edition.” It’s an “enhanced” version of the original with a Double Item Box (and a two-item carry system as well as the re-introduction of the Feather and Boo), an easy steering mode for newcomers, three returning characters, two new characters, and Battle Mode. Does that sound enhanced enough to spend $60 on again? That’s for you to decide.
At a Switch event this weekend I tried out both two-player tablet play and the contentious Battle Mode, and mostly came away satisfied.
I was able to play two levels of Battle Mode (Battle Stadium and Luigi’s Mansion), but that’s all I really needed to get a taste of to know it was legit. The arena style is back, baby, and it feels glorious in Mario Kart 8‘s beautiful engine, especially with the added power of the Switch. On TV mode it looks gorgeous and runs smoothly, and Battle Stadium with its bright scenery is the perfect showcase for how far Nintendo can push their first-party games.
The demo only gave us access to Bob-omb Blast, a mode from Double Dash where every item is a Bob-omb that you can subsequently toss in front of you or lay behind your kart. Players earn a point for each person they knock a balloon off of, and if all of your lives run out, you’ll lose half of your kill count. It’s a very Mario Kart rubber-bandy thing, and especially frustrating when you’ve wracked up 10 or above points, but I get why it’s a thing. It’s especially easy to identify who’s in the lead as a crown appears above your head and on the shared mini-map, so you can’t really hide after you’ve amassed a high score either. It was fun enough, but a Nintendo rep noted that traditional battle with the full item set is available in the full version, as well as three other modes.
As for the racing bits, they felt the exact same. My other session involved taking off two Joy-Con controllers from the tablet, which slipped off with the quick press of a button on the back — they were painless to slip on and off. Huddled into a demo station that emulated a plane ride (complete with tray tables), I played a full race of Wario’s Gold Mine. Again, it’s basically Mario Kart 8 with a more convenient tablet, but I could see myself using it on the go as it’s just big enough to make out what’s going on, even playing on the seat next to the tiny screen.
I do think this is Mario Kart 8‘s second lease on life, though, no matter how you feel about buying in for a second time. The tablet is going to be much easier to bring to someone’s house for a quick LAN session, which is something the series has thrived on since Double Dash. If the Switch sells enough we should see a more active online community, and if the paid online system can bring faster connection speeds and other features (like a longer lasting Mario Kart TV — RIP), so be it.