What is Mario Kart 8?
Mario Kart 8 is an accessible, pick-up-and-play arcade racing game that's full of Nintendo goodness. Letting you pick a character, vehicle and a course, players can face off against computer controlled opponents in a pretty substantial single player offering - but Mario Kart 8 really comes into its own when playing with other people. Whether you're taking on friends and family in the game's five player split-screen multiplayer mode, going up against up to 12 players online, or even a mixture of the two (you can play in online/split-screen, as you and a friend on the same console face off against the world), this is great for getting the whole family involved.
How do you play Mario Kart 8?
Mario Kart 8 offers up a variety of modes for players to get stuck into, from Grand Prix, which lets you race over a set of four courses back to back, to Time Trials, which simply asks you to complete a course as fast as possible. There's even a battle mode that pits you against other players in a more attacking based race (a scramble to pop other people's balloons without losing your own).
There's a lot of variety in both the tracks and the gameplay, and power-ups play a big part, giving you a short advantage (for example, a mushroom gives you a short burst of speed) or putting your opponents at a disadvantage (for example, a blooper - like a squid - squirts ink on other players' screens, making it difficult for them to see for a time). The game tries to keep each race close through the use of items, with those in last place getting the more potent picks ups, and those in first having to make do with banana skins - although no-one wants to be on the receiving end of a first-place-attacking-only, homing, explosive blue shell.
How easy is Mario Kart 8 to pick up and play?
Generally, as with all Mario games, Mario Kart 8 is suitable for anyone old enough to pick up a controller and press buttons, and automatically gives a helping hand to those younger and less skilled players when pitted against more experienced drivers, through giving them more powerful power-ups.
There's a huge variety of control schemes on offer too, with the easiest and most accessible being to simply hold the Wii Remote sideways, and tilt it to drive the Kart. Fully compatible with the old clip-on wheel that came with Mario Kart Wii, along with a whole host of other options (you can clip on a nunchuck to give you an analogue stick, use the Wii U GamePad, or a classic controller pro for a more "traditional" feel), it's easy to pick up and play, and all you'll need to get five players involved is your Wii U GamePad, and four basic Wii Remotes. Perfect for family multiplayer fun, this is easy to pick up, and a game that both children and their parents will love.
While you can pelt each other with shells, banana peels and fireballs, Mario Kart is still thoroughly family friendly fare. There's no real violence (any weapons simply make your opponent spin out rather than get hurt), no swearing, sex or bad language.