For: 3DS
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
When?: 2 December 2011

What’s It All About?: The first thing to hit us as we experiment with Mario Kart 7 is just how subtle Nintendo have been with the 3D effects. The best example of this comes upon use of the hang-glider – a brand new piece of equipment for the franchise.

The glider deploys from the boot of your car, filling the screen, a nd giving you a real indication of how far from the ground – and your landing point – you are. This provides some idea of how much time you have before you’re going to hit the ground; a great addition given the short cuts that can be accessed while using the hang-glider.

3D effect and hang-gliders aside, Mario Kart 7 will be instantly recognisable to fans of the series. Before long those franchise prerequisite shells are flying through the air, ink blots are covering the screen and bananas are being left in your wake; ah, it’s great to be back.

Our first race takes us underwater for what we think – and correct us if we’re wrong on this – is the first time in the series’ history. Before now water has always tended to mess rather terminally with Mario’s karts, and while on the other level we play (reminiscent of the Donkey Kong-themed level of Mario Kart: Double Dash) water is still an issue, it feels good to take the plunge for a change.

Controls are much the same as last time, ‘waggling’ during corners generating boost which can be unleashed to accelerate away while, as before, the turning circles of the various karts is generous to say the least; this is a Mario Kart game after all, not a racing simulator. Coins make a return too, collectable as you drive over them, while you can also build your kart before races; tyres, body, etc. all selectable to determine your grip and speed with further parts unlockable.

The feature we have yet to see, the online mode, is perhaps what will eventually keep people playing beyond the game’s solo-player experience. Here’s hoping Nintendo will manage to iron out ‘snaking’ (achieving extra speed via nefarious manoeuvres on straights) and any other blights which leads to unbalanced play. The reason Mario Kart DS tops many a favourite game lists is because it took everything good about the series and built upon it; Mario Kart 7 looksto be doing exactly the same thing.

Worth the wait?: Every major Nintendo console has had its own Mario Kart game, the last being Mario Kart Wii. Undoubtedly Mario Kart 7 is going to be a similarly huge hit, perhaps even one of those much coveted ‘system sellers’ and, like the DS version before it, expect it to see constantly praised throughout the conole’s lifespan. Take note however Nintendo, one MK per console isn’t enough – get working on another and make it different.