Its multiplayer drive comes through the simple learning curve, tight circuit designs and most importantly, those deadly items.
From simple banana peels to the devastating "Blue Shell," each game has introduced new weaponry to the Mario Kart arsenal.
Mario Kart 8 is the latest entry on Nintendo Wii U, combining elements from past games, together with new items and an anti-gravity mechanic, into a stunning HD package. The game has gotten rave reviews across the board, and is one of those all-important evergreen titles to keep enticing new players to Nintendo's home console.
However, since playing hours, upon hours, of the game's highly competitive online mode, together with local multiplayer, something seems amiss: the items.
Since launch, Mario Kart 8 has had its fair share of critics when it comes to the balancing of items between the pack, the lack of key items across multiple races, the lack of defensive items in the upper positions.
Several theories also seem to justify the balancing based on how far players are from first place - with more intense weapons - like the "Star" or "Bullet Bill" being awarded if a player is far back from the rest of the pack. Single items, like "Bananas", "Mushroom" and "Green Shell", are said to be more commonplace when the bulk of the pack are tightly knit.
However, in reality it doesn't seem to always work out that way - continual "Coin" items can dampen a solid first-place run, whilst single shells and bananas can make a comeback from the tail-end of the pack near impossible.
The traditionally stronger items - "Triple Red Mushrooms" and the Star seem to be toned-down in Mario Kart 8, granting only a minor boost in speed.
The worst offender, however, is the balancing of items - players can end up with a Bullet Bill in 3rd place (in a 12 person race), or a single Green Shell whilst trailing far behind in last. A player can also be awarded with a single Mushroom, whilst the person who just scooped an item seconds before receives a set of three Red Shells, making the Mushroom a tad bit redundant.
On the plus side, the frequency of the Lightning and Blue Shell items do seem balanced and fair (on regular/default settings), only appearing in minimal capacity during races. That said, even these items are also being awarded in strange positions - having been granted a Blue Shell in 3rd place (in a twelve person match), for example.
Proposal for Improvement
It's difficult to get the perfect or most ideal scenario for all players, but there are certainly aspects of the game that - with tuning - can improve the experience considerably:
- Reduce the frequency of the Coin item - particularly at the beginning and end of the races, to avoid those who are ahead of the pack being penalised despite driving well to get ahead.
- Prevent those in lower positions from getting redundant items - like single shells, Bloopers or Mushrooms.
- Prevent those in higher positions from getting stronger items - like Bullet Bills, "Crazy Eight", Blue Shells or Triple Shells.
- Reduce the number of Triple Red Mushrooms awarded in favour of Golden Mushrooms, Triple Red Shells, Bullet Bills, and Stars for those trailing behind.
- Improve the speed gains for items like Stars and Triple Red Mushrooms.
- Consider bringing back the option to pick up an extra item (if one is being held out already).