Racing games of all kinds have been getting more and more popular as 3D becomes increasingly common, mainly because racing games and 3D mix fairly well. Games like Motorstorm and Driver are impressive when played on 3D TVs, and Mario Kart 7 is definitely no exception.
Mario Kart 7 is the first Mario Kart game since Mario Kart Wii, and the series has been around for coming up on 20 years, with its first game on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The game formula has changed very little since its creation: 12-16 colorful, fun courses to race on, 4-12 character to race with, and 6-10 items to help you make it to the top have been used in every game since Mario Kart 64. However, Mario Kart 7 was made quite a bit differently than its predecessors. Quite a few new ways to play have been added, along with plenty of new characters, items, and karts.
One of the main changes introduced in Mario Kart 7 was the inclusion of underwater and air sections. Players would have to learn how to drive their karts underwater, and glide their karts through the air safely. It seems like a bold step in a new direction, but after one tries both out, one realizes that it’s pretty much the same, and nothing to get excited about. More often than not the gliding will actually get annoying, as blue shells, red shells, and lightning can all still hit you as you glide over a bottomless pit.
In past Mario Kart games, each character has a specific number of car that can be used, sometimes depending on size, other times depending on how far you are in the game. In Mario Kart 7, instead of choosing from a list of karts, you are given a choice of different kart bodies, wheels, and gliders so that you can customize a kart to your playing style, such as a small, fast, speed-based car to get far ahead of your opponents, or a large, heavy, defense based car to knock other cars off course. As you race more and more, more car parts are unlocked, allowing for more and more customization.
The main gimmick that sets Mario Kart apart from other racing games is the fact that even if you fall to last place on the final lap, you always have the chance to recover using items. Items can be used to gain speed, knock other karts off course, create hazards in the road, etc. In Mario Kart 7, three new items are introduced: the Tanooki Tail, used to fend off red shells, the Fire Flower, which allows the racer to throw fireballs for a short time, and the Lucky 7 item, made in honor of Mario Kart 7, which gives the racer 7 random items. The Lucky 7 item raises the most interest, as it’s extremely overpowered, and can clear a road of racers in a matter of seconds.
The Mario Kart series can normally be counted on having very fun courses to race on, each with their own themes, such as DK Mountain, and Bowser’s Castle. Mario Kart 7, however, exceeded expectations. There are 16 new courses and 16 older, rebooted courses to race on, all of which are jaw-dropping in their own ways. The 3D gives each course plenty of depth, and gives them a very “real” feeling to each of them. Rainbow Road in particular actually feels like you’re cruising through space without a care in the world.
I would say that several of the courses feel very similar, some of them even blatant copy-pastes, but the 3D is just so well done, it can be excused for a lot of it. The 3D aspect, while it does make the courses feel real and deep, also added a small bit to gameplay: certain items and hazards, such as falling rocks and squid ink, really pop out, and can definitely have an effect on your race.
Mario Kart 7 also features an online multiplayer gameroom which is vastly improved from the Wii and DS versions. While there is still the option to just race random human players all over the globe, a new option allows players to choose from a number of rooms each centered around certain styles of gameplay. Players have the choice to enter rooms where everyone races on easy courses, or where the only items are Bomb-Ombs. However, every single one of the rooms are just as fun as the next. Players also have the option to create their own rooms with their own rules and post them online for all to use.
The game itself doesn’t have too many problems – the physics aren’t stellar, more than once I found myself restarting a match because I had been launched into an inescapable corner. The online game also cuts out a lot due to the massive number of people on at all times, so matches have a very bad habit of cutting out as you’re about to finish them.
But even with buggy physics and some bad connections, this game is worth every penny, and there aren’t a lot of good racing games out right now, so I say you should definitely think about buying it.