Review by Scottiedogg54
"MK7 Strayed From the Winning Formula, Swerved, and Crashed into a Tree."
Before I begin this review, I would like to say that I am very much a fan of the Mario Kart series. In fact, Mario Kart Wii is one of my favorite games to date, and I will occasionally dust off the disc to play it every now and then. It, along with Mario Kart DS, had large amounts of content to keep the player busy much past Mirror mode.
Sadly, Mario Kart 7 did not follow the winning formula. I tried very hard to enjoy this game, but could not. Why? Read below.
Mario Kart 7's gameplay is reminiscent of its predecessor's: Mario Kart DS. Eight contestants compete in three-lap races over the course of thirty-two (sixteen new and sixteen "retro") stages. There are prize boxes scattered throughout these stages; running over one will give you an item, such as a banana peel to cause someone to spin out, or the mushroom which gives you a boost of speed.
There are two modes of offline play: Grand Prix and Time Trials. Fans of the series are already asking, "Where is VS mode?" Answer: there is none. For some reason, unknown to myself, Nintendo decided to get rid of VS mode. Now, if you want to race on a course with computer players, you must play through a Grand Prix. This is the first of many reasons why this game did not live up to its lofty expectations.
Back to the race modes, the Grand Prix is a group of tournaments (or "cups") that you may compete in. Each cup consists of four races, with eight cups total. There are four difficulty levels: 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and Mirror, with 50cc being the easiest and 150cc/Mirror being the hardest. Each step up in difficulty (from 50cc to 150cc) increases the maximum speed and makes the computer AI smarter. Mirror mode is identical to 150cc, except every course is mirrored. In other words, a sharp turn to the right in 150cc is now the same turn to the left.
Time Trials is mostly self explanatory. You are given three mushrooms to be used to complete a stage in the shortest time possible. The game keeps track of your personal best times. There are also two "staff ghosts" available to race. These ghosts are usually very difficult to beat and show off clever strategies and shortcuts for each stage.
There are some large changes that come with Mario Kart 7. For one, snaking, the art of chaining drifts in unintended places, is out. I messed around with it a bit and found that the bit of snaking that I could pull off was, in fact, slower than driving straight forward.
Another new feature (rather, one that hasn't been seen since the GBA days of Mario Kart) is the coin system. There are coins spread around on the track (you can hold a maximum of ten) that increase your speed. This was another huge mistake by Nintendo. It was a failure in Super Circuit, it is a failure now. Any time that you get hit by an item, you lose part of your coin supply, immediately disadvantaging you further.
The biggest problem I have with coins brings me to another subject: unlockable parts and characters. When selecting a kart, you pick out the wheels, body, and glider you want to use. You start with a tiny amount of vehicles to choose from, a tiny set of wheels, and one glider. The only way to unlock parts is through collecting coins in Grand Prix. That is the only way. Seriously. There is no VS mode to collect them through, and the final upgrade costs 5000 coins. I am at Mirror mode, and barely have 1000. At that rate, I would be forced to play through the same content 4 times in order to unlock all the parts. That in itself is a horrible attempt at creating cheap, extra replay value. Forcing players to grind out coins in a racing game is a bad idea. This is not an RPG.
Unlocking characters isn't much better. 50cc and 100cc unlock absolutely nothing (except for Mirror mode later), and 150cc and Mirror modes unlock one new character per cup. Mario Kart Wii's system of unlocking was incredibly diverse and creative. This is just lazy. As for the unlockable characters themselves, there are relatively obscure characters such as the Honey Queen and Metal Mario, but series favorites such as Waluigi are mysteriously missing.
The last big difference is the addition of being able to drive underwater and the glider. Both of these are actually pretty cool (the underwater feature seems a bit pointless at times, but still neat); one of the few bright spotsthis game has to offer. When you go off of some high ramps, a glider will pop out of the back of your vehicle and you can fly for a short period of time. Whenever you drive underwater, your kart sprouts a propeller and continues chugging along under the seas.
Gameplay Score: Mario Kart 7 strayed from the winning formula, tried being original, and got burned. 6/10.
It's Mario Kart. You expected a story? I can't really give this a score, but what has always worked for Mario Kart and other Mario spinoffs works here, too. It doesn't need one.
Story Score: NA.
The graphics are basically the same as the ones in Mario Kart: Double Dash, which is pretty impressive since it is being played on a handheld. The sound is mostly borrowed from the older games. For some, that is a problem, but honestly I am perfectly okay with the sound. For once in the game Nintendo did not try to "spice" things up a bit, and went with what worked in the past. Good call, in my opinion.
Graphics/Sound Score: These serve their purpose. Nintendo has never been about stunning visuals and sounds, but they are good enough to carry the game long. 7/10.
.:PLAY TIME/REPLAY VALUE:.
This is where the game really fails. As I already mentioned, you have to grind incredibly hard to just unlock all of the kart parts, which is a terrible way to get extra replay value. Since there is no Mission mode or VS mode, the only things to do are play through the Grand Prix, Time Trials, and try your luck at Wi-Fi races. By the time I had finished the game through 150cc, I was so sick of it that I didn't even start the Mirror cups.
It doesn't take any more than 10-15 hours to get through the Grand Prix, but you could easily spend five times that grinding out the coins to get all of the kart parts.
Play Time/Replay Value score: The lack of content really kills this game. As expensive as this game is (around the same price as Mario Kart Wii), it should provide much more, in my opinion. 3/10.
+Fun, for a while.
+Glider and underwater sections were good.
+The new tracks were well done and has a strong lineup of old ones.
-Extreme lack of creativity in unlockables.
-No VS mode.
-No Mission mode.
-Weak character lineup.
-Not enough customization in karts.
The core game is fun, as are all Mario Kart titles, but the lack of extra content is a killer. Buy the game if you need something to play on a trip, but I would look elsewhere for a strong, play-at-home title.
Final (average) score: 5.25
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 01/25/12
Game Release: Mario Kart 7 (US, 12/04/11)
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