‘Mario Kart Tour’ quick review: Potentially addictive but beware the microtransactions

Gelo Gonzales

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‘Mario Kart Tour’ quick review: Potentially addictive but beware the microtransactions
It has the kind of fun you'd expect from a Mario game but those who pay for characters and items may get some advantages

I’ve put in a few hours into Mario Kart Tour, and my verdict is: It’s amazing that we have a real Mario Kart game on smartphones. It’s amazing that it’s free to download, and so far, even without spending, the game has been entertaining.

The drifting mechanic may hook you. As you steer hard for a turn, the kart starts to drift, and if you hold it long enough, blue sparks come out of the rear wheels. Quickly release your finger from the screen, and you get a speed boost. It’s a skill that you have to master to win the harder races – the more turns you can get a drift boost from, the better chance you’ll have at staying ahead of the pack. It’s the core skill you’ll want to master if you want to be a good Tour player. 

The touchscreen control felt a little bit sensitive at first. The kart auto-accelerates. You only steer the kart left or right or swipe up or down to use items. At first, you’re likely to make wide swipes to the left or right. But give it time, and you’ll learn to calibrate your thumb and learn when to make smaller, finer movements, and bigger swipes for drifting. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes more fun. 

There’s an easy steering mode and a more advanced one. I’ve been sticking to the easy mode because I’m still mastering it, but I can see how one would, in time, be bored of easy mode and would like a little more challenge with the advanced mode. 

The game looks polished, and is certainly a game that Nintendo didn’t half-ass just because it’s a mobile game. The charm of Mario and his usual cohorts doesn’t get lost in the translation, and you get that familiar sense of warmth playing a Mario game. The light, colorful visuals, the quirkiness, the hilarious items that can help you win – all these make the jump to Tour.

But the presence of microtransactions may mar the experience. It’s borderline pay-to-win. Characters will be able to carry more items in certain tracks, giving them an advantage over other racers. But to obtain a character, the game has a lootbox/gacha mechanism, which you’ll need rubies for. In order to get rubies, you need for them with real money, although sometimes you can get them as a reward for completing in-game challenges. Karts, gliders and other items that potentially provide advantages are also available through gacha. 

You can enjoy Tour without paying for these but those who may want to progress a little faster, and get more characters faster may want to pay. Hence, your mileage will certainly vary depending on the money you spend. For instance, the fastest speed setting for the game (200cc) is only available through a monthly P259 “Gold Pass” subscription. We got the free 2-week trial subscription, tried the 200cc version, and we can confirm that with Mario Kart, the faster, the better. 

As many other websites have pointed out, Apple Arcade costs about the same monthly, while giving you access to 70 full games that are not microtransaction-driven. 

Currently, there is also no real multiplayer in the game. Nintendo has confirmed to several websites that the current races in the game aren’t human-controlled even if the other racers have human-sounding usernames. There is a planned real multiplayer mode, so that’s when these microtransactions might become a bigger issue: if paying players have a better selection of characters and items and karts, they may have an advantage over non-paying players. That’s the definition of pay-to-win. 

For now, don’t let that stop you from downloading. For most, it’ll be fun for a few hours, will have some rewards for those who stick around, but will likely fulfill its potential when real multiplayer comes around – and if Nintendo takes into account how pay-to-win mechanics may mar the fun. 

Currently, the game’s now the most downloaded Nintendo mobile game in its first 24 hours, having been downloaded 20 million times. The next most popular is Pokémon GO, with 6.7 million downloads at launch. – Rappler.com 

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.