Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit Review

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GAME INFO

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit

October 16th, 2020

Platform Nintendo Switch

Publisher Nintendo

Developer Velan Studios

I enjoyed Mario Kart Tour more than this. That’s a pretty brutal way to start off a review considering the reception Mario Kart Tour received from a majority of the gaming community, but it’s also genuinely how I feel. As a game, purely as a video game, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is the least fun I’ve had playing a Mario Kart game. But to judge this by the software alone is doing the product, and you readers, a grave disservice. This isn’t just a traditional Mario Kart game, this is a fascinating and complex remote-controlled car for kids, and this Christmas, this is definitely going to put smiles on faces.

When you open the box you are met with a giant leaflet instructing you how to download the Mario Kart Live software on your Nintendo Switch, and then you are left with the toy car itself, and a stack of cardboard to prop up as gates – luckily you won’t be folding and constructing these gates like a Nintendo Labo kit, instead, they’re easy to collapse and fold away back into the box when you’re done playing. You simply connect your toy car to your Nintendo Switch by pointing the car at the QR code on the Switch screen, they will link via local WiFi, and suddenly you’re ready to play

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Essentially what you have here, in the most basic terms, is a toy car with a camera on it that you can monitor via the Switch screen. The software overlays a 3D Mario onto the car, one with all the charm and personality you would expect from Nintendo’s mascot, and you watch Mario drive around your own home. This is incredibly charming and heartwarming – it’s like Mario himself is really staring down my tiny dog in his kart. Driving under cupboards, under the sofa, under beds, all of this is wonderful and feels great. This unusual blend of home exploration and driving is just fun and refreshing in the same way it’s fun to find your own home in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

The game portion comes into play with the flat-packed cardboard gates you can take out of the box and place around your room. You have four gates, numbered 1-to-4, and you can create your own Mario Kart track, starting with the first gate, driving through all of the others, and then once you’ve completed a lap that’s your track. Now, using the track, you can race against Bowser’s Koopalings in true Mario Kart fashion, complete with items, power-ups, hazards, Boos, Piranha Plants, camera filters, and gate decorations that truly give each track a distinct personality to go along with the music change, despite the fact it is still, quite clearly, just inside your home.

Once you have a track made and you can race around it without complications, in the ideal scenario, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is fine. It is just fine. The novelty factor of building your own tracks runs out fast, and once the game begins you are able to forget all about the fact you’re racing around your own home – just as well since it doesn’t help to make the game itself much better. But we have to acknowledge that this game is not for me, it is for kids. This is absolutely a game for children no older than 13, really, and anyone buying this for themselves who is an adult is probably doing so either out of morbid curiosity or just wants it as a collector’s item. Either case is fine, but in that scenario, looking at it as a game is no longer applicable.

Now, if you’re buying a gift for a child, this becomes a far more attractive product. I can easily imagine children of all ages loving Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit. I’ve already said the novelty of driving around your own home is great even as an adult, and as a child, that novelty won’t wear off so easily. Creating your own tracks, decorating them with household items, chasing the pets, it’s an excellent source of creativity and fun. Couple it with up to 200ccs of speed, a variety of music tracks, and course types and you have a recipe for a lot of fun, undoubtedly.

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This would be an excellent Christmas gift for a younger sibling, nibling, or offspring. The problem is that it doesn’t offer the same kind of value to older players, or even worse, players with a small living space. I have quite a small living space, and getting this game working to a decent level was a massive struggle. I had to move out a rug, furniture, and more, just to make a small circular track that the game would understand, and would just work. It was far more effort than it should’ve been, and to make it work, I had to abandon creativity. My attempt at a figure-8 track fell apart quickly. My attempts at having a track which weaved between several rooms in my home was also skewered by technical issues – and the fact that the car couldn’t climb the tiny 1.5cm ramp between my main room and kitchen. Just to make it work to an acceptable standard I had to create something plain and boring, something I didn’t want to create, and just to get to that point I had to get rid of everything else that was on the floor.

Basically, I can see that my fun with Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is limited, one of those limits is my age and attention span, and the other is my floor space. If the only issue with this game was the fact that it was more child-oriented than most Mario toys and games, I wouldn’t complain in the slightest. It’s the fact that it’s so restricted by space that truly ruins the experience for me. It takes what should be a fairly straightforward track builder, and turns it into a nightmare of minor troubleshooting because I have the gall to live somewhere small. I can accept a fairly rudimentary amount of game content, I can accept not being the target audience, and I can accept Ring Fit Adventure forcing me to get down on the floor when I barely have enough space to lay down, but this game, forcing me to move my furniture and then essentially telling me I haven’t done enough is infuriating. And all of that could be alleviated perhaps, if the toy was intended, or built, to be used outdoors, but as it stands, the game warns you not to take it outdoors, lest it gets wet, or dirt damages the kart itself. Disappointing.

Review unit provided by the publisher.

7

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is heavily dependent on the amount of free floor space you have available. If you have a large home, space to drive under the sofas, no extra rugs or thick carpets, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit will be an amazing experience to share with the children. If you live somewhere fairly cramped or have a lot of clutter that’s going to get in the way, then you will find this very difficult to enjoy indeed. Great for the kids at Christmas, as long as you have the space.

Pros

  • Excellent novelty value
  • Surprisingly great use of AR
  • Lovely collector’s item

Cons

  • Signal doesn’t stretch very far
  • Can’t be used outdoors
  • Nightmarish to create tracks in homes with limited space

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