Hands-on with the closed beta
The long and winding Rainbow Road for the release of Mario Kart Tour is almost complete. After announcing the game a year ago and immediately in radio silence about it, Nintendo finally gives some players a chance to see how it translates one of its most popular franchises into the mobile platform in a closed beta. Anyone with a My Nintendo account could try to be a part of it, and luckily I could get an invitation.
For the past four days, I have dived into the game to see what it's all about. While the first day had started with connection problems, it has been smoothly sailing since I really get a feel for what Mario Kart Tour will be when everyone is able to play it. As it stands right now, I do not see myself when the full version is launched later this summer.
And because I don't have to share photos or video from the beta ̵
There is much to talk about with Mario Kart Tour especially all the systems that come with it being a free game game, but I think it is better to start with the basics of how it plays. Like any other Nintendo mobile title, Tour is played exclusively in portrait mode and can be played with only one finger. Your map will automatically accelerate so all you have to worry about is the management and use of your weapons. If you do not keep your finger on the screen, your character runs straight. Sliding your finger left or right sends them to an operation that you can increase. When you have a weapon equipped, you can just tap the screen to use it as normal or slide your finger up or down to select which way to throw it.
The game is programmed so it's almost impossible to leave the track. There are also opportunities in place that help beginners who do their best. While the game won't play itself for you, you can turn on automatic operation, which simplifies the drive process. You can also enable automatic object, which uses all equipped weapons at once when hitting a new object box as well as driving directions, which places an arrow in front of your map to show where it is pointed.
As a Mario Kart veteran, I instantly hit the manual operation setting that mimics the traditional drifting series known for. This not only gives me the opportunity to snake a little across the pitch, it's the only way the controls for this game actually feel tight.
Nintendo seems to have Frankensteined even some driving controls that probably work but not It is good to use at all. Unless you turn gyro controls on, it is difficult to make subtle movements with your map. Each trip is treated as an operation rather than an attempt to place your map as you want it. With gyro controls you have a little more freedom on the track, but it can be awkward and unreliable to use it in step with pressure operation. The gyro control is not as fine-tuned as it should be, and it does not help because Tour is programmed to keep you on the track, you must actively fight the game if you want to make a leap that is just outside the side of the track.
I don't bother with the gyro controls for most of my races. I found out that it was enough for me to first of all take the long, sexy drives in ultra mini-turbo boosts. However, as I quickly discovered, first place doesn't take the final goal of any race. Progress here comes down to points. Get enough points and you get up to five Grand Stars. Collect enough of them and you will unlock new cups for testing.
There are three ways to score points in a game. The first is to finish the race. The higher your place, the more points you get. First place alone can be 2,500 or more points, which is easy enough to unlock two Grand Stars for a particular race. Because each race is only two laps, there is not much room for error, and in true mode Mario Kart you can expect that a few blue shells will come to your path just as you approach the finish line.
The other way is through actions. This is all you do on the track. Use a weapon, hit a boost pad, take another racer, score a turbo boost or go a jump and you will earn points.
The final way to get points is through your driver, map and slider choices. At the start of each race, you choose each of these options no matter what you have unlocked through the call or earned in the gameplay. Each driver, map and glider has a point value that adds together to give you your base points for the race. So when you choose your three options, you will know what your starting point is. You will run and add on action points before choosing it with many points you earn from completing the race. All those added together will make your final result, and if that is high enough, you will be able to grab all five Grand Stars from a single race at a time.
In the beginning, it's easy enough to do. With Toad, the first racer I unlock in the game, I am able to grab all the Grand Stars from the game's opening cup. As a regular Mario Kart you start with 50cc, but when you leverage your profile, you will unlock 100cc and 150cc (200cc is not available in the demo). Each cup is divided into four events that include three races and one skill test, such as Driving through calls or collecting a certain number of coins. Earn enough stars and you will unlock the next cup. All the tracks currently in the game are from previous Mario Kart titles and they make repetitions in different cups because there is only a handful in the game right now.
It's all good and easy for the first few cups of the game, but as the necessary point totals to get all five stars for a race grow, you can find yourself playing the same pair of races, doing what you can for Gradually increase your score in the hope of passing whatever point threshold you need to crest. And this is where the random call factor in your potential for success as well as reveal how Mario Kart Tour is pay-to-win.
If you want to get the most points you can, you do not choose your driver, map and slide based on personal preferences. Instead, you choose what has an advantage on a given track. Each track will have its favorites, and if you have been fortunate enough to unlock one or all of these favorites, you have an advantage over the other racers. If the track likes your driver, you get three item slots instead of that standard. If it likes your map, you get a speed increase over your competition. If it likes your glider, you will be happier with the weapons you draw from objects. In other words, often times that come first and get the most points, have nothing to do with skills and everything to do with whether your opponents have been fortunate enough to unlock the best equipment.
That's not to say You can't win and get five stars with drivers, karts and cable cars that the tracks don't like. You can, but as you continue, it becomes harder. I was on four stars for a particular track for two days until I unlocked Baby Mario and leveled his score high enough to only stifle with the minimum of 6,500 points needed to get the last Grand Star. As frustrating as it is in the beta, it will only get worse when people are allowed to spend money on calls.
Each driver, map and glider has two different levels attached to it. The first is its point level, that is, the number of points that a particular object will start you at the start of a race. When you drive with them, these points will grow. You can also use unlockable tickets to raise their point value.
The other is its skill level. This is not lifted through normal running; Instead, you can increase a driver, map or glider level through tickets or by calling multiples of the same object. As the skill level increases, it will receive greater rewards. For drivers, let's look at Daisy. At level 1, she gets twice as many bonus points on a course that likes her, which is currently only Daisy Hills from Mario Kart 7 . Draw enough Daisys to get her to level four and get three bonus points. Level 7 gets her four times and level 10 nights her five times these points.
In fact, this does not mean too much, because none of them gives you benefits over other drivers. It does matter with karts and gliders because smoothing them will result in major improvements over your competitors. With karts driving on a track that likes them, you get speed boosts when you leverage them. According to the skill summary menu, smoothing a map to level 10 will result in a "large rise to map speed" on compatible tracks. With gliders, the higher you level one up, the faster you recover from hits. You also get quick access to your goods – the roulette continues too long with the races so short – and rarer gliders will increase the product rapidly exponentially.
So the more you unlock, the greater benefit you are, I have other racers. And even if you don't actually drive against other players – only AI controls one of the drivers, maps and gliders they choose for a particular track – I can't imagine that there won't be many situations where people don't spending money falls behind players who lose food on as many calls as possible.
You can get calls by using emeralds, which can also serve in the game. It is from now on the only paid currency in Mario Kart Tour but there are other free-to-play systems in place. There is an energy meter. Each race costs one heart and it takes 15 minutes for a heart to rebuild. You also replenish your hearts as you cultivate your profile. There are also coins you earn in the game you can use in the store on today's items or tickets to raise the point level on a map, driver or glider. There is also, for some stupid reasons, a timer associated with unlocking a new cup. It is not enough to acquire the required number of stars. The last cup I unlocked made me wait two hours before I could play it. My reward for waiting? The same three tracks I had already run several times before.
Mario Kart Tour is definitely not what I expected when Nintendo announced the game last year. It fits in perfectly with the company's mobile strategy to take its popular franchises and turn them into easily playable smartphone games. But just like the other titles in his mobile portfolio, something went away along the way. Mario Kart Tour is not a pure test of skill with smashing boxbox shenanigans, but rather a restrictive mud that favors those who are fortunate enough to spearhead emeralds. Moreso than any other mobile game it has released, Mario Kart Tour has the potential to be Nintendo's worst offender for pay-to-win, and unfortunately the base is just not fun enough to see me past it.
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