✔️Fascinating concept. ✔️Toys-to-life amalgamation with Mario Kart’s legacy is a match made in heaven. ✔️Limitless possibilities to explore within custom circuits. Innovation and ingenuity is key.
❌Exclusion of main characters, but that could also attest to a potential expansion in its peripheral line. ❌Free-Mode and Time Trials are nifty, but are limited to single use. ❌Camera quality is subpar.
It’s incredible to see the Mario Kart franchise thrive every generation with a unique twist at every turn. Mario Kart 8 has held its own since its launch on the Nintendo Wii U back in 2014, crossing generations to the Nintendo Switch in 2017 with its Deluxe rerelease. The series has had a multitude of original, non-mainline spin-off’s unseen in Western localisation, but has made waves around the world. Mario Kart GP took the home console exclusive, and placed it within the world of Arcade title’s and had been the envy of Mario Kart devotee’s, globally. Mario Kart Tour released to a lukewarm reception on mobile, vying for the resounding critical acclaim that was received with Super Mario Run, but was quickly forgotten.
Once again re-inventing themselves, Nintendo have released an astonishing original concept within the world of its dominant kart racing series. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit places you within the realm of your own home. The ability to construct your own circuit, and race an RC Kart manufactured to mimic the in-game vehicle, allows players to venture through the many hurdles and obstructions seen from an unimaginable view in their own environment. Expeditiously zooming through corridors, avoiding traps hidden underneath my own bed, and blazing through numbered checkpoints with the speed mushroom, giving that extra push needed to land first place. Its wondrous how Velan Studios have managed to initiate the foundations of such an awe inspiring concept, furthering a legacy that could very well see the potential for additional content.
Making a Wii U Turn…
So let’s unpack this unusual, yet ingenious idea before getting to the crux of its gameplay. Inside the box, players will receive their own rechargeable Mario Kart (or Luigi), along with a set of four gates that mainly act as checkpoints for players to progress through and construct their course, with the soul purpose that the entire experience isn’t just one that could be completely compromised by circling the finish line. The Kart itself is surprisingly sturdy, and is reinforced with rubber bumpers, ensuring players that it won’t easily damage the interior of their house, or the Kart itself. Syncing the Kart with your switch is as simple as pressing the “ignition” placed on the right hand side of the Kart.
This sets off an internal Wi-Fi band, finding the closest Switch with the software pre-installed. The software itself is free, and available through the Nintendo eShop and while it is accessible to everyone who has a Nintendo Switch and an Internet connection, it renders itself useless without the peripherals. The gates are Labo quality cardboard, that are crafted for easy access; Folding out the stands of each gate, you will see them numbered 1 through 4 with the original Super Mario Kart artwork, giving representation for each goalpost. Each art piece is actually read as AR Codes through the fixed dashcam on the RC Kart. Nintendo faithful are no strangers to the tech, as it was first initiated with the inclusion of AR Cards on the Nintendo3DS.
My Nephew chasing Mario around the House.
Upon booting the title, you are greeted by Lakitu who guides you through the basics of constructing your unique raceway. While lending a hand, he makes sure to note that your Kart must stay within 30 feet, and will only work without any obstructions such as walls or barriers that may deflect the wireless signal between the Switch and the Kart itself. Your signal strength is displayed in the top left hand corner of the screen, and is accompanied by a “gas meter”, which is actually your Kart’s battery level. This is once again a credit to Nintendo genius, the Kart’s rechargeable USB-C port is located on the right, under a retractable door that imitates a fuel tank; so cool. The Kart’s battery life is also metered on the back of the AR Camera.
When on charge, its synchronisation units display red when depleted or blue when the peripheral is ready for use. A Short USB-C cable is supplied and recommended for use on the Nintendo Switch’s charging dock. You can charge your Kart on your PC, but I found that the Kart did not signify when it was completely charged. It’s highly recommended to play in a well-lit room, with natural lighting as the AR Camera quality is nothing extraordinary. The “Toys to Life” like quality of the dashcam is dependent on your overall gameplay experience, and may glitch out on occasion. There are moments where gates may register incorrectly rendering your race a completely broken mess, however when it functions as intended its an incredibly solid affirmation for its captivating ingenuity.
A Mushroom on Rainbow Road?…
For Mario Kart, its adaptable and accessible gameplay has always been a hallmark for its legacy. Everyone and anyone can pick up a controller and experience the greatest kart racing franchise of all time. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit entails this exact notion, heightening its overture with a reality based spin on things. There are minute details that come into question, such as the omission of notable Nintendo mainstays for the inclusion of the Kooplings. Racing around each course, we are left without the presence of Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Princess Peach, and the angry stares of our brother Luigi. However, this may come with an intent to manufacture and distribute more model Kart of each character in the near future.
The potential to expand, and explore possibilities of a real time Mario Kart race within your house is quite enticing. While players will be able to construct their own courses, only one fixed course will be available while racing within a Grand Prix. Each respective cup harbours distinct themes that adjust gameplay styles to fit its representation. Bowser’s castle will have rotating fire bars, along with leaping lava bubbles as obstructions in place, while Super Mario Bros. 1-1 will scatter 8-bit Goombas across the course with coins to collect in hopes of gaining a slight speed increase. The Kart itself does adjust its speed to each CC available, however the higher the CC class, the faster your Kart’s battery will deplete.
Completing each cup will reward the player with a multitude of unlockables such as, Costumes, Vehicles and Horns along with environment themes and musical tracks to use in free-mode and Time Trials. Free-Mode allows the player to simply use the Kart as they would a regular remote control car, while Time Trial allows you to race around your carefully crafted racecourse in hopes of scoring a record breaking lap-time. While these features are a neat addition to the title, it’s presents nothing that’s transfixed as custom courses cannot be saved so Time Trials may be recorded, but represents nothing of substance after the software itself is reset. There are no online options or leaderboards available for obvious reasons, but the title has local multiplayer available to those who may own their respective Switch and Kart units, and may want to play against a friend within their custom circuit.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a blast. While it may not be the Mario Kart sequel we desire, it unquestionably delivers an incredible take on the established franchise. A refreshing take on the genre that had seen a lull for quite some time. The Toys to Life interactive series has faced its fair share of criticism within the gaming space, but an amalgamation of Mario Kart’s concrete legacy inspiring a new wave of interactive gaming could be an incredible insight for things to come from the Kyoto based, gaming manufacturer. A myriad of discernible properties that could be attached in waves of unimaginable facets, would deliver concepts unseen within this great medium. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is an essential for Switch owners who love the Super Mario franchise itself, and a must have for Mario Kart mainstays.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit - Nintendo
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a racing mixed reality game, released on October 16, 2020 for the Nintendo Switch. Developed by Velan Studios, Home Circuit utilizes physical radio-controlled cars responding to how the player plays in-game.