Nintendo and DeNA’s newest take on the Mario Kart franchise comes in the form of a free-to-play mobile game. DeNA has previously worked on other Nintendo titles including Fire Emblem Heroes, Super Mario Run and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. These games have been fairly faithful to the original series, with the unfortunate downside of being a microtransaction filled mobile game.
Mario Kart Tour is actually pretty fun once you get going. Players race on tracks from various Mario Kart games, though some are modified to be easier on mobile. The various cups feature courses like the 3DS Toad Circuit, SNES Mario Circuit 1 and N64 Kalimari Desert.
Controlling your kart is pretty straightforward. Boasting the ability to be played with one hand, players direct the kart by dragging their finger left or right across the screen. Players can also drift by holding their finger on the far end of the screen to get a boost. Tapping the screen causes the player to use any items they might have picked up.
One major difference from previous entries in the series, is that certain karts, characters and gliders will do better on certain tracks.
If you head to the 3DS Mario Circuit stage, you’ll find Peach offers an item bonus, meaning you can receive three items from a question block. Using a specific kart will grant a speed bonus, and a specific glider increases the chance of getting unique items from question blocks. All of these features add to a scoring system that will rank the player after the race ends. Doing tricks and hitting other players with items also contributes to the players score. The higher the score, the more stars a player earns, which in turn are used to unlock more cups.
And this is where money starts to come in.
Following the gatcha-style microtransaction model from other Nintendo and DeNA titles, players must spend emeralds to try and pull better characters, gliders and karts. The higher the rarity, the better the stats. Some items, like those in the ultra rare category, have as low of a pull rate as 0.3367%. Mario Kart Tour is still in closed beta so purchases are currently locked.
The other form of currency in the game are coins. Players earn coins by doing well in races and collecting them while on the track, earning anywhere from a few to more than thirty if the player is skilled enough. Karts and gliders can be as high as 2,000 coins so even if they can take first in every race it’ll take some time before they have enough coins to purchase anything.
Even worse, players must spend hearts, Mario Kart Tour’s energy replacement, to race. So if you’re trying to grind out coins for a certain item it can take up to an hour for hearts to fully recover, unless you want to spend a few emeralds to gain a bunch back of course.
If players have the extra emeralds, they can pay to enter a coin rush mode where they play as Golden Mario and collect lots of coins, with a multiplier depending on the number of emeralds spent.
Most disappointing though, is the lack of a multiplayer system. So much of the fun in Mario Kart is launching fire balls at friends or hitting them with a red shell right before the finish line. Hopefully Nintendo and DeNA will be able to work in the feature before launch because as it is now, the other players might as well be AIs.
The latest entry in the Mario Kart franchise is in a closed beta for select Android users in the U.S. and Japan.