Mario Kart Tour (Android) Review

By Neil Flynn 06.10.2019

Review for Mario Kart Tour on Android

Historically, Nintendo has been ever so tight with its core bankable franchises. These are the money makers, the system sellers, and the core USP of any Nintendo console. That is why it is unfathomable to see Nintendo release their most important and largest franchises on mobile devices - well, at least until they think of all the money that can be made on a platform which has billions of active users. Mario Kart Tour has been designed for this precise factor, money, but this is no different than any other mobile game, right?

To set the record straight, Mario Kart Tour is a 'free to play' mobile title that requires no money to play. Upon downloading and opening Mario Kart Tour, the player is greeted with a tutorial on how to play Mario Kart on a mobile device, of which there are number of options on how to play. Toadette was the first character used during the review process, after she was won from the loot box selection - more on that later. Each character auto accelerates for sense of ease, and there is an element of smart steering which ensures that the kart mainly stays on the track. In fact, it can be difficult to actually break off the main track area at times, although the smart steering option can be turned off. The preferred option of steering is to use a thumb, gently swiping a thumb to the left turns the kart left and vice versa to the right.

There is an option to add in manual drift which is initially a little convulsive to execute, but after a couple of races it becomes second nature to any experienced Mario Kart veteran. Manual drifts are performed by turning into a corner and then, while holding the turn, to swipe in the opposite direction to add a little torque to the drift. Doing so will subsequently change the colour of the drift from blue, to orange and finally purple, with each giving a longer speed boost. Imagine playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with the auto-acceleration and auto steer on, that is what Mario Kart Tour is like, all that there is left to do is fire weapons and collect coins. Don't let this under sell the importance of steering, as per normal Mario Kart fashion there are a number of obstacles, coins, speed boosts, item boxes and ramps to navigate through.

Screenshot for Mario Kart Tour on Android

As per the title, Mario Kart Tour will feature a rotating 'tour' every fortnight, which focuses on the earnable rewards. Within the tour are a number of Cups to complete, of which there are three races and one challenge. Most interestingly, the challenge mode is akin to the mission mode found in Mario Kart DS, and varies from driving through rings, performing a number of jump boosts, taking down a number of goombas with weapons, and gliding as far as possible among others. This is actually quite refreshing, and it is surprising that it has taken until Mario Kart Tour for this mode to be re-implemented. The courses thus far a comprised of old remixes of SNES, Nintendo 64, GameCube, GBA, and 3DS tracks alongside, one new original course titled 'New York Minute.'

To progress to the next cup, a number of points from each race are needed to gain 'Grand Stars,' and there are five Grand stars on each track to gain based on the total number of points gathered by the end of that race. Gaining points in a race not only depends on overall track position, but the performance during the race as well, for example successful boost starts, drifting, skill jumps over ramps, hitting other drivers with weapons, and collecting coins. Points are also awarded at the start of a race for the type of the driver, kart and glider, as well as racing on faster difficulty. Each part of the driver make-up changes between each track depending on what driver has an affinity for that track, meaning any character that has a strong tie to a circuit will get multiple items per item box, for example, if on Bowser's castle, then Bowser would be the stand out character to get to join the fray.

Karts work in a similar way but have additional bonus point mechanics, and picking a top end glider will then multiply combo bonus. At the end of the race each racer, kart and glider will gain experience points which in turn level-up the aforementioned items, levelling up the items then adds to the return of points that the player receives at the start of the race. So far everything seems a little convoluted, and at the same time not too abnormal, but there is an underlying difference - monetisation.

Screenshot for Mario Kart Tour on Android

Mario Kart is no different from most free-to-play titles. Monetisation makes the mobile gaming eco-system go around, after all. The paid model comes in multiple forms, and in turn these can be used to purchase karts, gliders and characters. The in-game currency is known as 'rubies;' these can be purchased at a rate of three for £1.99 all the way up to 135 for £64.99. It takes 5 rubies to generate a random loot box with a single reward that Mario Kart Tour strangely has titled "Firing off the pipe," alternatively 45 rubies will purchase 10 pipe launches. The rewards are randomly generated but more popular drivers such as Mario, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Peach, and the like are much harder to come by, whereas others are totally absent at the moment, including Luigi and Wario. Coins on the other hand can be picked up on courses or won as prizes for completing cups, however each user is limited to collecting 300 coins a day.

Alternatively, coins can be earned in the Coin Frenzy mode, which costs at least five rubies to play (approx. £3.33), the advantage of doing this is buying something directly from the store rather than hoping to gain it in the random loot box from a pipe launch. Items in the store regularly rotate every day, so it is best to use coins wisely. Another option is to pay £4.99 a month to become a Gold Pass member which unlocks additional and extra gifts by racing in tours, unlock aesthetic badges for your profile and unlock 200cc races. This represents terrible value for money considering that the extra rewards are not really worthwhile and 200cc does not offer any extra reward for completing the races in this mode.

Screenshot for Mario Kart Tour on Android

Finally, there are one-off gift sets priced at £19.99 which offer a treasure chest of goodies including rubies, tickets (which can be exchanged for a number of items including Grand Stars, item boxes or experience points), and at the time of writing, Mario. That is right, the only way right now to unlock the original Mario, in a Mario Kart game, is to pay £19.99 for him. For many this is more than enough reason to be driven away from even thinking of Mario Kart, but in all honesty it really shouldn't.

The thing is though a lot of rubies and coins can be picked up by just playing the game. Rubies and coins are on offer in numerous ways, such as log-in bonuses, completing races, cups or challenges. Tour Challenges and Standard Challenges are in-game achievements that provide rewards for progressing through the game such as collecting 10 different karts or getting first place in a 100cc race five times. Of course, like with all F2P mobile titles, the further the player progresses there will naturally be less and less rewards, but thanks to no stamina limit players can play as many races as they choose to do so in a given day. Given the popularity of Mario Kart, it is quite surprising that there isn't a stamina cooldown period, such as only five plays in 24 hours.

A core staple of the Mario Kart series are the weapons, and there are a sheer number of ways to slow down opponents. Slippery bananas, free roaming green shells, homing red shells, the evil first place-hunting track-surfing blue shell, speed boosting mushrooms, giant making mushrooms, among many others, all make their triumphant return. Individual character weapons from Mario Kart Double Dash make a welcome return as well, including the giant Bowser Shell and the present-giving Yoshi egg. A pay to win model is also in effect, as tickets can be purchased from the in-game shop to gift a racer an extra time during any race, although this is only limited to one ticket use per race. Alternatively picking certain drivers on certain favoured courses will get three items per item box, so for example Mario would net three items on courses such as Mario Circuit. Additional to this, if the item boxes line up, slot machine style then the driver will go into a frenzy, which means unlimited usage of that item, no matter what that item is, and invincibility for a select period of time, the higher the driver level the more likely it is that they would go into frenzy mode.

Screenshot for Mario Kart Tour on Android

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Mario Kart Tour is a fun, graphically brilliant, and has a serious amount of innovative track reinvention. Returning weapon mechanics and modes from previous titles, plus an added achievement system, are all steps in the right direction. The grind to get characters, karts and gliders is really tough, but it isn't impossible. The monetisation side of things is borderline exploitation, and to an effect tarnishes not only Mario Kart's stellar reputation, but also damages Nintendo's family-friendly safe space that they have established. Fans of the series should try to see Mario Kart Tour as a gateway to the console versions, rather than a fully-fledged sequel to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, then, and only then, will they find some solace in what this is trying to achieve.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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