Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Racing
 
Rating: G
 
Release Date: October 16th, 2020
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
3.5/5


 

Positives


- Fun for all ages
- Well-made kart scoots about at 200cc
- Nostalgic remote-controlled augmented reality chaos!

Negatives


- No split-screen multiplayer
- Limited wireless range
- A bit on the expensive side.


Posted October 23, 2020 by

 
Full Article
 
 

Mario Kart has long been one of the most entertaining multiplayer racing games that has filled millions of living rooms with laughs and joy, but never has it physically taken up an entire living room. That was until Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit hit the shelves, giving you the ability to turn your home into your very own circuit. Nintendo provided us with a Luigi Kart Live to test out in and around our living room, and with two kids under five, a dog, and two cats, the Mario Kart Live experience really came to life.

Each Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit pack comes with one kart (either Mario or Luigi depending on which box you grab), four gates, and two arrow signboards. The game itself is downloaded via the Nintendo eShop, so don’t expect to find a physical game inside. While this doesn’t sound like too much, the gates don’t limit you to what kind of crazy course you can create in your home. After some minor assembly (a few seconds for each gate and sign) we were off organising a track around our living room, using toys and other objects as obstacles along the way. Once you’ve placed the gates, the game guides you through creating your first circuit where your kart must recognise each of the four gates in order. The arrow signboards aren’t necessary, but they help in pointing you in the right direction, acting as a good deterrent from any potential hazards like cliffs.

Mario Kart Live Home Circuit

The kart itself has an ‘ignition button’ next to the driver which connects it to your Switch. Next to that is a little sliding panel hiding a USB-C connector. You’ll find a USB cable in the box which can connect directly into the side of your Nintendo Switch Dock, or any other USB charger. The kart displays how charged it is using an on-screen petrol meter, which we thought was a nice touch.

On-screen, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit looks and plays quite similar to the original Mario Kart games. With items like mushrooms, shells, banana peels and ghosts, racing around your living room with a remote-control car has never been so hectic. In reality however, the real-world kart moves quite slowly to start off with when you only have 50cc and 100cc unlocked. It travels around at a brisk walking speed, making it easy to dodge, and even easier for cats and children to pounce on. Once you’ve completed a few Grand Prix Cups however, the full potential of the kart is unlocked and it will soon be zipping around faster than a greyhound (it’s true, we tried)!

Mario Kart Live Home Circuit

We created a few circuits in various rooms around the house. Our favourite course was one we set up in our gaming room which included avoiding giant Pikachu and Yoshi plushies, Amiibo, and more Nintendo goodies, as well as a shortcut under some bar stools. That’s right, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit has shortcuts. As long as you make it through the gates in order, you can actually go off the set path. This does mean you’ll miss items like mushrooms and coins, but it can be the difference between coming last and staying in contention for a victory.

Speaking of coins, as you work your way through Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit you’ll tally up coins which will automatically unlock new vehicles, costumes, and horns for your kart. These unlocks are purely cosmetic but do add another form of progression to the game. While we think most people are likely to play this game single-player, the different on-screen karts, costumes and horns could make for some fun multiplayer action if you ever pair up with someone else that has the game.

Mario Kart Live Home Circuit

The game has typical Mario Kart controls and features drifting around corners as per the normal games. Charging up your drift gives you a short burst and while the physical kart doesn’t drift, it’s a nice feature that rewards more skillful driving. The tires on the physical kart are removable which allows you to easily clean them if you happen to drive over any spills, and we found the general build quality of the kart to be very good. The battery should last about the same amount of time as your Switch when playing undocked which if what you’re going to want to do, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is technically a fou- player game, but in order to play multiplayer each person needs their own kart… and their own Nintendo Switch. While there are only two karts on the market right now (Mario and Luigi), we hope Nintendo can work out a way to release extra ones such as Toad or Yoshi as stand-alone karts that can be added to an existing Home Circuit. If split-screen multiplayer with a joy-con each or a pro controller is made possible, then this style of AR Mario Kart could be a huge success. For now though, at $149 per player (plus a Switch!) it’s quite expensive for what you get.
Mario Kart Live Home Circuit

Adding to that, the game has some serious limitations in terms of range. While you can play undocked and set yourself up in the middle of the circuit, if you want to play docked on a TV on one side of your living room then you might find that once the kart reaches the other side of your room the signal will get sketchy. This often results in a complete loss of signal for a couple of seconds, or a really patchy framerate causing you to crash into furniture.

Luckily as we mentioned earlier, the kart itself doesn’t travel terribly fast which means your furniture (and toes) are safe from damage, but it’s still a good idea to create a good circuit with clear boundaries and to avoid getting in the way of a race. We also didn’t have any issues with the kart getting dirty despite at one stage having to dart under beds and couches to avoid a slobbery two-year-old. If you’ve got carpet it’s usually a good idea to vacuum it once a fortnight, and we honestly can’t believe we had to say that in a video game review.

Mario Kart Live Home Circuit

What this game lacks in hardware constraints, it makes up for in its Grand Prix mode. Grand Prix mode has 50cc, 100cc, 150cc and 200cc racing which is where the kart will operate at its full potential. There are eight three-race cups to complete, ranging from the standard Mushroom and Flower to the crazy Lightning and Special cup which includes the infamous Rainbow Road track. We don’t recommend trying to replicate this track in your home however, as the physical kart probably isn’t built to sustain those kinds of falls. The other two game modes are Time Trial which is exactly as it sounds, and Custom Mode where you can create your very own circuit, themed with items that you have unlocked from gathering coins. You can change what appears at each of the four gates, and you can even change the weather from sunshine to rain.

Graphically, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit looks about as good as your home. Seriously though, the in-game graphics are great. The user interface looks exactly as you’d expect a Mario Kart game to look, and the on-screen visuals were a welcome surprise, with the physical gates and arrow signboards lighting up as you drive through them. The audio is exactly what you’d expect, and there are also a few radio stations to change up your music as you race.

The only thing detrimental to making us recommend everyone race out and pick up Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit right now is its price-tag. The package you get for $149.95 AUD RRP doesn’t include enough to sustain the amount of gameplay we expect from a game that expensive. This game will come down to how large the rooms in your home are and how creative you can be with your circuits. We’re expecting some crazy videos to be posted online of some of the cool ideas that players have come up with, and hopefully we’ll get those extra karts and split screen multiplayer in the future.


David Latham

 
David has a Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) from a Group of Eight university, but only uses his very unique set of skills writing about video games. By day he's a stay-at-home dad, by night he's literally Batman. Where does he find the time?