Genre: Kart Racing
ESRB Rating: E
Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS
THE BASICS: Drive Like Heck
But Mario Kart-style go-karting doesn't involve piddling around in wussy battery-powered karts. Like its many predecessors, the gameplay in Mario Kart 7 is built around 32 tracks (16 new tracks, as well as a re-visitation of 16 old tracks) that are dotted with themes, obstacles, pits, and traps, all inspired by the Mario universe.
"Items" are another staple of the Mario Kart series, and they've made a return in Mario Kart 7 as well. Question Blocks are scattered around each track, and drivers who smash into them receive one item in a roulette. Some of the items in Mario Kart 7 will be familiar to veterans of the series, including the Mushroom (grants you a burst of speed), the Star (makes you invincible), and the Red Shell (seeks out your closest opponent, and destroys him). Some new items make their way to Mario Kart 7, however. Make room in your heart's garage for the Tanooki Tail (lets you slug nearby drivers), the Fire Flower (allows you to fling fireballs at nearby rivals), and the Lucky 7 (gain command of 7 items at once!).
You can play Mario Kart 7 solo and race through campaigns against CPU rivals at the usual three difficulties: 50 cc, 100 cc, and 150 cc. As you progress, you'll unlock more tracks, more racers, and more parts to upgrade your kart with.
Aside from racing, you can opt for "Battles," wherein drivers hunt each other down through various courses and try to pop each others' balloons.
As might be expected, Mario Kart 7 also has robust multiplayer options, including the ability to race against local friends, and against competitors from around the world via Nintendo 3DS Wi-Fi.
You can drive under water -- In other Mario Kart games, a plunge into the drink automatically means a necessary rescue by the cloud-surfing turtle Lakitu. In Mario Kart 7, however, your karts are water-ready. The race must go on.
Lots of alternative paths -- The ability to drive under water in Mario Kart 7, combined with another new skills--hang-gliding off big jumps--means that there are more alternative paths and shortcuts to discover than ever before, at least in the game's new tracks.
Long "Loop" tracks -- Some of the new tracks on Mario Kart 7 place the racers on Wuhu Island, the Mii-populated landmass made famous by games like Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit. While they're not traditional Mario-themed tracks, these "Loops" present an interesting change of pace, as they challenge racers to complete one long track instead of lapping three times.
It's fun to play alone or with friends -- Mario Kart 7 is a lot of fun to play solo, but it's totally rockin' as a multiplayer game. You can play locally with a bunch of friends, with randomly-selected racers from around the world via Wi-Fi, or as part of a private group (also over Wi-Fi).
For better or worse, it's Mario Kart -- Anyone expecting a huge franchise reboot with Mario Kart 7 will be disappointed; despite its upgrades, Mario Kart 7 is a Mario Kart title through and through, though it's arguably one of the series' most solid entries to date.