We have been waiting for Mario Kart Tour for a long time. When it comes to Nintendo franchises that can, theoretically, work on mobile, Mario Kart is definitely one of the appetising. We're still waiting on the full selection of courses to be available, and multiplayer is yet to arrive, but Mario Kart Tour is finally out, and we're ready to tell you what we think.
In Mario Kart Tour, you spend much of your time racing against AI through a selection of levels which tend to become familiar pretty quickly. You are of course aiming to come first, but more than that, you're aiming to play really well in order to rack up points and combos which will have you leaving the track with five stars and some high scores.
It's a new take on Mario Kart, and surprisingly, works perfectly with the new mobile form factor. The only real issue with Mario Kart being on mobile is the control scheme. You now swipe and tap in order to steer or drift. There are a bunch more control possibilities thanks to Gyro Handling, Auto-item usage, and more settings options, but none give you an on-screen interface of any kind, making this Mario Kart feel unique, in good and bad ways.
It works, though. The controls and the way this game aims for scores and combos complement each other really well. All you really need to do is drift and use items accurately, and the controls give you that. After some time with the game, the controls honestly feel mostly fine, but never a substitute for a real Mario Kart game.
You'll be able to choose a driver, kart, and glider before going into each race, and unfortunately, this is where things start coming apart. Depending on how suited your loadout is to the course, you will be given different score multipliers, different numbers of items, and more. If your loadout is not optimal, what are you to do? Well, get more drivers, karts, and gliders through the gacha system, obviously. Oh dear.
This is where we start getting into how the game is monetized. There is a gacha mechanic of course, which doles out drivers, karts, and gliders - including duplicates, of course, which will upgrade your existing loadout.
Luckily, the game does allow you to buy featured drivers, karts, and gliders from the shop using in-game coins, so you can expand your loadouts without spending premium currency constantly.
The gacha mechanic will be your primary method of earning though, and you'll be earning even more with the Gold Pass, which will give you more drivers, karts, gliders, tickets, premium currency and more for £4.99 a month. Absolutely not worthwhile in a game which is already asking you to cough up money for gacha mechanics. Honestly a bit insulting, if anything.
Which is a shame, because I actually think the game itself is pretty good. At first, I felt tepid on the whole thing, but after adjusting to the controls and grinding out high scores a bit, I was enjoying myself a lot. Then I remember the harsh monetization, the fact that I don't have ideal loadouts for every race, and the fact that if I want better loadouts I should spend money. It's a vicious cycle.
I hate the monetization, but I love getting big combos. It feels great to hear the sound effect of your combo building while drifting and boosting around the track, laying down items to hit enemies and gliding through the air. It's honestly great, genuinely enjoyable, and it's a good thing too, otherwise, the monetization would make the package feel truly egregious. With the great gameplay, it's somehow… just about acceptable.
Mario Kart Tour certainly isn't the best racing game on mobile - in fact, I would argue that it's not really a racing game at all, more akin to a stunt game like SSX - but it offers fun gameplay and an interesting take on mobile Mario Kart. The monetization feels greedy and really does drag the experience down, but if you can look past that, and avoid spending, then there's an excellent mobile racer here.