It’s like a childhood dream come true: speeding through the apartment in a real remote-controlled car and playing “Mario Kart”. Nintendo is now fulfilling this dream – for a lot of money.
Between chair and table legs, under the couch, past plant pots and a frightened cat: “Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit” brings the classic racing game straight into the living room.
With a remote-controlled kart about 20 centimeters in size, players can race through the apartment, drifting around bends, throwing turtle shells and chasing personal bests. In principle, the new Nintendo gimmick is a mixture of a remote-controlled car and an augmented reality game. A camera is mounted on the small, solid plastic card that streams a video image to the switch. Instead of the rigid Mario figure, a living character is animated on the screen, who looks around, waves his arms and holds power-ups in his hands.
The apartment becomes a race track
The layout of the racetrack is determined by the players themselves. The package includes four cardboard goals that can be distributed around the apartment. Then you place the kart in front of the first gate. A little helper appears on the screen who equips the tires with paint in the game. The racetrack can then be “painted” by driving it down – with any number of bends and chicanes and in the correct order of the numbered gates.
However, the flat rear-wheel drive kart occasionally has problems with ramps. Otherwise, any abbreviations or obstacles can be built in. Of course with everything that living rooms or playrooms have to offer: pillows, chairs, fairy lights, soft toys, building blocks and so on. Once the track is ready, the races can begin.
When driving for the first time, the contrast between the screen and reality is particularly noticeable: especially in the higher of the four speed levels, playing feels extremely fast – while in the real world a small, remote-controlled car simply moves across the ground.
In the single player mode you drive with computer-controlled, animated opponents around the weather that can be seen on the screen. On the route, which is also shown, there are coins and power-ups with which you can gain advantages: mushrooms accelerate the kart, with turtle shells and banana peel you can stop opponents – or be stopped by them.
The artificial intelligence of the opponents adapts to the skills of the players. If you get stuck on an edge, for example, you can expect your opponents to wait in a friendly manner instead of heading further towards the finish line. This “rubber band” effect also makes it difficult to shake off your opponents with good driving.
Just like in real life: distraction is dangerous
A couple of things reduce the driving pleasure. So it needs ideal lighting conditions – not too bright, not too dark – so that the game can correctly recognize its surroundings and the goals. Again and again in the test it happens that the displayed route “slips” under the kart and suddenly obstacles are in the way.
At the same time, there is so much animation happening on the screen that one quickly overlooks obstacles without clear contrast and thus gets caught on a chair leg. The maximum range of five meters between the switch and the kart is also not always sufficient if the console cannot be placed in the middle of the room. Pets should develop particular interest in the remote-controlled kart, which could be a hindrance to the finish line.
Driving in multiplayer mode with up to four real karts is also possible, according to Nintendo, but this could not be tested. Because before that there is also a very real hurdle: the price. A kart with four cardboard gates costs around 100 euros, each of which has to be controlled with its own console.
In addition, you need enough living space to play in order to be able to set up a reasonably interesting course. The game warns of playing outside the home right at the start. Overall, the toy is aimed more at well-off families.
There is no doubt that Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit will make it under various Christmas trees this year. Rightly so – because the overall package is a funny, innovative idea that can trigger childlike joy even in older people. But how often you can bring yourself to unpack the toy, set it up, set up a new course and then put everything away again – that is the big question mark behind this expensive gimmick.
has been released for Nintendo Switch, approved for ages six and up, and costs around 100 euros.