The lights are on
Look closely at the "8" in Mario Kart 8's logo, and you'll notice something: The numeral also doubles as a Möbius strip, a topographical curiosity that challenges conventional thoughts about top and bottom. It's no coincidence, as I learned after taking Wario out on the track for a few mind-bending races.
In Mario Kart 8, the karts add yet another gimmick to their already impressive repertoires. I got a chance to see it in action in what started out as a traditional-looking toadstool-circuit style race. Hairpin turns turned extreme, as the track's surface twisted and spiraled. Fortunately, Wario's ride was equipped to handle it. His wheels rotated sideways and magnetized, keeping him firmly stuck to what otherwise would have been an impossibly precarious surface. The next level was a seaside resort, complete with a Statue of Liberty-style monument off the shore, with Peach in the position of honor. Drivers who stuck to the main path wouldn't see much of the new magnetic mechanic on this course; it was available as an optional wall-riding detour. The third and final track I raced on was Ghost House-themed, and it was my favorite. Here, the drivers raced through corridors, sticking to walls and diving underwater. The twisting passages felt as though they were designed by M.C. Escher.
The racing was reliably solid, and the GamePad provided the flexibility to try a few different configurations. I gave the gyroscopic controls a shot, but I quickly swapped them for the traditional analog-stick setup. Some people might prefer motion controls; I just can't count myself among them. The controller's screen can be used as a minimap, but I got more use out of having it act as my horn; pressing on the button elicited an appropriately rude blast from Wario, perfect for gloating each time a rival spun out on a banana peel or got knocked aside by one of his shells.
Nintendo isn't saying how many tracks will be in the game, but the three that I got to race on were as well designed as any I've seen in the series. I'm curious to see how the magnetic elements are used throughout the other level designs. Judging from what I played, they don't need to be overwhelming to make things interesting.
Visit our E3 News Headquarters for all the stories from the show. This preview was originally published on June 11, 2013.
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