Mario Kart Tour Beta Hands-On

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.

That’s it.

Mario Kart Tour

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.

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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.

Mario Kart Tour

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.

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That’s racing. It’s Mario Kart. You know how it goes.

Mario Kart Tour

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).

Mario Kart Tour

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.

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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?

Presumably, yes.

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.

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