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Mario Kart Tour is too cynical to be fun

Mario Kart tour could not come at a worse time. A week ago, the surprisingly excellent launch of Apple Arcade reminded people of how good mobile gaming could be when developers no longer had to worry about pressing ads or in-app purchases. In a mobile market that is almost completely dominated by free to play games that constantly require time and money, Apple Arcade was a relief. Mario Kart tour, meanwhile, is a grim reminder of those dark days.

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In its most basic, Mario Kart tour is how it sounds: a simplified one Mario Kart you can play on your phone. It resembles Mario Kart, albeit with somewhat sterile graphics, and you will hear familiar songs while racing. Power-ups such as red shells and banana peel are still present, and if you are in the first place, you should still be wary of blue shells.

The biggest change in gameplay is that the entire experience is controlled by touch. Your kart will drive automatically, but you can control it by swiping left or right to turn around. There are a few deeper mechanics – for example, you can stray for a speed boost – but it's usually very simple and the controls are frustratingly inaccurate. A good thing: using items is fairly intuitive and requires a simple tap on the screen.

You go through the game as you would in a typical one Mario Kart game. There are a number of cup events, each including a handful of races, and once you've earned enough stars, you'll unlock the next cup to continue playing. The songs are set in well-known places such as Cheep Cheep Lagoon and Rock Rock Mountain, but just like the controls, they are extremely simplified. Whether you are racing through a city or an underwater course, everything is easy. There is nothing of the inventive, manic creativity of it Mario Kart 8 see here.

That core is bland and harmless and does just enough to make sense Mario Kart. The problem is that a large part of the game is designed around generating revenue, as opposed to just being a fun game. This is especially clear when it comes to unlocking new characters and karts. Like so many recent mobile efforts from Nintendo, Mario Kart tour uses loot boxes. Spend a few rubies – the premium currency of the game – and you can get the chance to get a random character or vehicle. Even worse, they have changed the warp pipe, an iconic symbol of it Super Mario, in a giant cannon that shoots your mystery prize. There is also a shop that traverses different characters every day, which you can buy with coins collected during races or in a special mode that costs rubies to play.

Of course, this is of course generally applicable nowadays to mobile gaming. But it feels especially irritating in a game series so full of unabashed pleasure Mario Kart. The mobile iteration even goes a step further by offering a monthly subscription of $ 4.99 – the same price as Apple Arcade! – which gives you access to items of the highest category and a fast racing mode. It is something like that Fortnite& # 39; s pass, only a much worse deal. All this will be one of the best parts of Mario Kart – winning races to unlock new things – in a costly venture.

The sad state of Mario Kart tour is part of a steady decline in Nintendo mobile efforts. It started promisingly, with an iPhone version of Super Mario designed by none other than Shigeru Miyamoto, one that was sold in its entirety for $ 10. After that turned out to be a failure, Nintendo turned to play Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. They were fun Nintendo-quality games with mechanics such as taped loot boxes – and they made a lot of money. Things have changed since then. In addition to Mario Kart tour, earlier this year, Nintendo launched a puzzle game that was essentially Dr. Mario-theme Candy crush, and both games are so aggressively converted into money that the game feels like secondary.

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This does not mean Mario Kart tour will not be successful. In fact, early signs indicate that the game has a record launch. But that success is not because the game is good, and it is especially disappointing from a company that is proud of quality. Aside from mobile, Nintendo is at a creative high point and regularly launches large Switch games that are praised almost everywhere. They are games that sell hardware and help players to think differently about what games can be. Nintendo sets its own pace on the console; on mobile it follows.

Mario Kart tour is now available as a free download on iOS and Android.