Mario Kart 8 carefully evolves classic game

WHY reinvent the wheel when you have all but perfected the original design? Mario Kart 8 very much follows this philosophy, so in essence the game is a careful evolution of the most recent Mario Kart offerings, with much better graphics and a few welcome tweaks thrown in for good measure.

Mario Kart 8 is the first game in the series to be featured in HD and the improvement is instantly noticeable and very welcome.

As you'd expect, the presentation features plenty of colour, but it is also impressive just how different each of the circuits look and how Nintendo has gone to great lengths to add amusing incidental details to most of the tracks.

References to other Nintendo games are everywhere, as are the traditional shortcuts.

There is also a new "anti-gravity" mode that sees your karts tuck their wheels underneath the chassis and become "electrified hovercrafts".

This play element is the single biggest gameplay change.

The game also features 30 drivers from the Mario universe and a good mixture of more traditionally designed tracks as well as modern roller-coaster-styled circuits for you to enjoy.

Then there are wackier newer tracks, like those that see you racing amid the clouds or through Bowser's castle, that are hilarious and challenging. Others, like Sunshine Airport, see you making massive jumps as you race along aircraft wings and so on. The tracks really are the star of the show, and there are circuits that feature a huge variety of themes, and they all look gorgeous.

The 50cc, 100cc and 150cc divisions are back, and the one criticism of the single-player game is that experienced digital drivers might find the game a little too easy.

The game is at its most enjoyable when played against a friend. Two-player split-screen mode is the strongest option in this regard, as the game does suffer a slight loss in frame rate and detail when more players are onscreen in "quad screen" mode, but this is only to be expected.

The dreaded "killer blue shell" missile from Mario Kart 7 is still featured in the game, but play balance has been added, as this previously unfair missile can now be blown out of harm's way with your hornMario Kart 8 is undoubtedly going to be one of the great racing games of 2014. Realism may have taken a back seat, but the way it can be picked up and enjoyed by absolutely anyone makes it hard to beat.

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