Mario Kart Tour is out today, bringing the immensely popular Nintendo series to mobile for the first time. Fans of the previous games may not find things quite as they remember however, as the familiar formula has undergone many changes for the new system, some of them welcome, others not so much.
Mario Kart Tour is officially designated a "free-to-start" title, a name chosen by Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata to indicate a step away from the familiar free-to-play structure. In practice, this is just a case of "a rose by any other name", and players downloading Mario Kart Tour should be prepared to find just the same amount of micro-transactions, currencies, XP systems and grinding as they'd encounter in any other F2P game.
How to Download
As you'd expect for a high-end mobile title, Mario Kart Tour launched simultaneously on both the iOS and Android stores, and can be downloaded for free from either. The initial download is only 128MB, but on-launch downloading will push this up to around 500MB, which is about standard for a game of this scope. Players will also need to sign in, or sign up, to a Nintendo account in order to play.
This doesn't seem to be putting players off, and neither are the micro-transactions, as mere hours after the game's release the Android store version has been downloaded well over a million times. There's no information available on how many are opting to pay for Mario Kart Tour's subscription service, however, which adds a host of extra features for $4.99 a month.
How to Drive
The Mario Kart series has always traded on its intuitive controls and mass-appeal design philosophy, and the latest installment is no exception. Transferring even a relatively simple button-based control scheme onto a touch-screen can be a tricky task, and yet Mario Kart Tour has managed it quite neatly. Acceleration is handled automatically, removing the need to always have a finger on the screen, and steering/drifting is done by swiping horizontally. Items are an essential part of the Mario Kart experience, and can be fired forwards or backwards by swiping up or down on the screen.
This system may not work for everyone, but fortunately, there are many options to alter the controls, including Auto Items, Smart Steering and Gyro Handling, which lets players steer by tilting their device.
How to Advance
There are three currencies in Mario Kart Tour, only one of which can be purchased with real money. The first, Grand Stars, are earned through performing well in races, and are used to unlock the next gift or cup in the current Tour. Coins, the second currency, are spent in the shop to buy karts, gliders, characters as well as a range of consumables. These are also earned through completing races, but in small amounts unless the player spends Rubies for the Coin Rush mode, which acts as a Coin multiplier throughout the Tour.
Rubies, the final currency, are very rarely earned in normal gameplay, and are intended to be bought with real-world money in amounts up to $69.99. Rubies can also be spent to open the game's version of a lootbox, called the Pipe, which gives a random kart, glider and character. Though this may not be as random as it seems, judging by the reports of most players receiving Toadette almost immediately.
As with all free-to-play/start games, it's entirely possible to ignore these systems altogether, and simply race with the free kart and driver players receive at the start of the game. Players may find this a somewhat hollow experience, however, as the developers seem to have done all they can to boost Mario Kart Tour's microtransactions and incentivize spending.
Mario Kart Tour is available now for iOS and Android.