I don’t know how to not be just blunt with saying this….this should be on every Nintendo Switch owners’ shopping list for the upcoming holiday purchases. Available in Mario and Luigi designs, Nintendo and Velan Studios have brought to their millions of fans something we never knew we wanted… an actual functional MARIO KART. The Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit in conjunction with the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite plucks the race tracks we all know and love out of the game and brings them into real life, and your living room.
Straight out of the box you are greeted with minimal hardware, surprising, as I initially thought it would require quite a bit of fiddling around but boy was I wrong. Packed neatly inside is a Mario filled kart approximately 20cm x 12cm x 10cm dimensions with a built in camera, a USB-C charge cable, 4 gates and 2 directional arrows. With the kart built with durable plastic for all those wall bumps and chair knocks, the gates are very much the opposite and made of cardboard.
Seeing as the Nintendo Labo is such a quirky innovative branch from the company, it was nice to see it built (even if only minutely) into this too. The cardboard gates geniusly slide and pop out as cute little stands for your kart to drive through branded with numbers and iconic Mario Kart scenes. While I am worried they will become flimsy with wear and tear, they were indeed very easy to get out and pack away after every use.
Charging the kart is as easy as plugging the USB cable into any compatible power supply. I found I generally got around 2 hours of gameplay out of a single charge and while it takes closer to the 4 hour mark to charge up again I considered this a pretty generous balance as the speed and movement from the Kart was quite impressive in itself. This was especially impressive on a tiled surface compared to carpet.
To start using this kart with your Switch you need to first download the free application in the Nintendo Store. Not a huge download, it is then as simple as pairing your kart with the Switch, which fortunately provides the option of either using the joy cons or a controller. You are also given the ability to play on your Switch monitor or docked up on T.V. screen. I like options. A lot. I preferred handheld mode though, it just felt more personal and like you were actually in the small little driver seat. Once you pick your set up of choice, sync your kart, complete the tutorial, then the real fun really starts.
Once you set the gates up around an open space the game will direct you to lay a track down, this will be the course you will follow via the camera built into the kart. It is so amazing when you see the layout of your house as you drive Mario around the track projected onto the camera screen. It is such a cool and innovative concept and to be honest I expected nothing less from Nintendo, they really get what family fun means and even the inner child in adults.
Just like an original Mario Kart game, they drop in Bowser’s little squirts as your competition and along the race you can collect and use power ups to give you that edge on your rivals. Even more awe inspiring is the fact the kart reacts to elemental features and power ups with boosts making it go faster, be blown off course or even stopped in your tracks entirely… those pesky blue shells, the bane of every would be winner’s existence.
The ability to scan the gates means you can really customise the way you want the track to look and can make for some really creative and unique racing experiences. I even made my own ramp at one stage and utilised that to launch my kart towards the final turn. So much fun.
The fun however gets limited eventually as you are robbed of some true potential by only having 4 gates with changing them up being tedious, coupled with the fact that Multiplayer relies on 3 other players having their own Switches and drivable Mario/Luigi Karts then it can quickly become a lonely endeavour.
It was nice to see FREE unlockables with many stylish costumes and kart designs amongst other features earned through coins collected for leveling up through the races. The music and graphics were also what you would expect from a typical Mario game, but the visuals were definitely of an astonishing 3D quality I did not expect and really made the environments come alive.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit comes with 3 modes; Grand Prix, Time Trials and Custom Races. Grand Prix, easily my favourite, is where you will spend most of your time and is a series of 3 race track cups against A.I. players or friends. It is very familiar to the traditional Mario Kart but obviously tweaked for the live camera aspect. Time Trials is where you verse other karts or yourself to improve your own times around the tracks you have created. Lastly, Custom Races are single races that you have designed yourself. In between these modes is also a free roam where you can just drive around at your own leisure, which is also quite fun looking at your own surrounding home through the eyes of Mario. The strange looks from my dog then the resulting camera down the throat of the Blue Heeler as he pads away with it will always have me thinking thank god its plastic.
Available in Australia, at most gaming suppliers for approximately $150 AU, the Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is definitely a hefty toy in price but is definitely a good time for new and old to the franchise. This certainly brings a fresh and innovative application to the Mario Kart scene and if you are fortunate to have friends who also have one as well it is worth every cent.
- Hella fun racing and interactions
- Minimal tinkering around with easy pack up
- Very plug and play
- Free software in the Nintendo Store
- Decent play to charge ratio
- Can be creative creating a combination of tracks
- Lots of free unlockables
- Pretty iconic 3D graphics
- 3 modes
- Easily destroyable gates
- Only 4 gates really limits the tracks true potential
- Can be a lonely ride playing alone