We now live in a world where the latest Mario Kart game, Mario Kart Tour, can be interrupted by a Facebook message.
Okay, I’ll be honest, it’s not all doom and gloom for Mario Kart Tour. Nintendo has managed to make a Mario Kart you can play with one finger.
Your kart always goes forward. Move your finger to the sides to turn. Up and down to fire off your items one way or the other.
Pro tip: turn on Manual drift. Tapping the screen will let you build up pink sparks and leave everybody behind.
It should be mentioned: Mario Kart Tour is the easiest online Mario Kart, in so far as has nobody figured out how to turn on Manual Drift?
But it doesn’t really matter if you get first or not. You still get points, you still get stars, and you still progress to the next cup.
It goes like this: get your gatcha character, kart, and glider. The level of each one provides your starting points (you need ~5000 for five stars on 100cc; my basic set usually starts me with 1000 points), and their relation to the stage impacts your item slots, item lock, etc.
For example, if you use Peach on Peach’s Castle, you will have three item slots. Ditto Dry Bones on Dino Jungle. Three items per item block makes a difference, believe me. Can you still win a race with one item slot? Yes. But it’s going to be a heck of a lot harder.
Every race is versus people, while every cup also has a single-player challenge mission (drive through rings, do X jump boosts, etc.). You won’t be racing bots, and you will be racing people who have higher level karts and more. Again, because getting first doesn’t really matter, losing doesn’t get in the way of your progression.
If you’re at all proficient at Mario Kart, though, I wouldn’t worry: at least in the beta, 1st place is waiting for you.
Mostly, the same strategies that find you success in Mario Kart work for you here, with a couple of major differences: you can’t fall off, and you automatically fire items when you pick up an item block.
That last bit is pretty important, because once you’ve lost your green turtle or banana by picking up a new item, you’re vulnerable to attack while your next item is still rolling. Wait for the item blocks and there won’t be any blocking your red shells.
That’s racing. It’s Mario Kart. You know how it goes.
For progression, you’ve got a few kinds of currency. Coins (earned by racing and picking them up from the course) buy you a rotating selection of karts and gliders. Emeralds (earned by meeting goals, logging in, and, eventually, through real cash) give you a chance to fire off the ol’ gatcha roulette.
Stars, meanwhile, earned by meeting the points quota in each race, unlock new cups and rewards (every 10 stars is a reward, usually emeralds or single-use tickets).
Of course, since this is a mobile game, you do have stamina (needed to play; typically I never ran out doing a cup or two at a time since it refills when you level up). Also, bizarrely, when you unlock a new cup it still needs to be “constructed,” which can be a 30 second to 59 minute wait (and more, I’m sure; those are the only two times I remembered to look).
I’m five cups deep so far, and there are about nine tracks at this point, all returning from other Mario Kart games. I’m on the sixth cup, and there’s still ten more, so presumably the game will be pretty meaty.
I’m kind of curious where the gatcha goes from here, and the regular updates. Are we going to get your basic holiday Marios? Pink Gold Peach? Non-Mario, still-Nintendo characters? Are there going to be new stages that aren’t from the history of Mario Kart, new items, new karts, new gliders?
At the end of a session, it’s hard not to look at my Nintendo Switch or Nintendo 3DS and wonder, why wouldn’t I just play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Mario Kart 7? The thought is only exacerbated when an incoming phone call or Facebook message comes my way.
Mario Kart Tour isn’t made for me. It’s made the people who don’t have a Switch, or who aren’t likely to bring it with them; for people who spend more time and money on their phones; for people who are connected to unlimited data, all the time. If you are one of those people, and are desperate for some Mario Kart, then Mario Kart Tour is definitely that. It’s polished, runs well on my Google Pixel 2 XL, and is fun.