Mario Kart 7
For: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Action, Racing
ESRB Rating: Everyone (6+)
Mario Kart 7
The Mario Kart franchise started way back in 1992 and has made an appearance on every Nintendo game system since the SNES. Always good, usually great, the fantasy circuit racer is invariably considered a "must have" title with every new release.
Such is the case with Mario Kart 7, which is actually the ninth Mario Kart game if you count a couple of spinoffs and you're a math nerd.
In a nutshell, it's a farfetched kart racing game featuring Mario or someone from his entourage at the wheel, each zipping around one fantastical race circuit or another, picking up one-time weapons and armaments along the way, lobbing projectiles or dropping banana peels on those who are trailing.
The series' "all ages" accessibility continues in Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS in that any kart in the lead will take the most flak, often losing a first place finish at the last second as some missile or exploding shell is sent up the tailpipe or plopped from above. As always, this makes it less a "racing" game and more a great, goofy, smash-bang derby on a circuitous course.
Like any franchise, the basic premises doesn't change much from one iteration to the next, though it is updated, polished, tweaked and made fresh with new variations on a theme. The most obvious update for Mario Kart 7 is the 3D presentation, made possible by the 3DS' remarkable, glasses-free upper display adding visual depth to the action. Speaking of depth, karts can also be equipped with glider wings and propellers, extending the race realm both skyward and underwater.
A "Balloon Battle" mode, seen in earlier versions of the game and then removed, has been re-added, presumably by popular demand, along with new mode call "Coin Runner." Both are last-man-standing contests and both, along with the regular circuit racing modes, get pretty boring pretty quickly if you're just playing by yourself against computer controlled opponents.
In fact, limited single-player appeal has always been a shortcoming for the series, one easily dismissed when you realize each version, Mario Kart 7 included, is made with at least 2 players in mind. It's a social game, so to speak, where actual people, friends, family and acquaintances can slap each other around by kart-based proxy at home on a split screen or, more recently, through an online connection.
Seeing as Mario Kart 7 is a game for a single handheld system, its multiplayer function is made possible through Wi-Fi, where up to eight (8) internet-connected players can have at it. This, of course, assumes each player has a copy of the game. However, with Nintendo's "Download Play" feature, users can also set up a local Mario Kart 7 multiplayer sessions from just one copy of the game. Other 3DS owners joining these sessions can only play as one character and have no customization options - it's an upsell thing; go buy your own copy.
Either way, play in multiples and Mario Kart 7 is great fun. As a single player experience, not so much.