Nintendo’s first racing game for smartphones, Mario Kart Tour, is barreling like a red shell toward a free-to-play launch on iOS and Android later this year. But today’s kickoff of a closed-beta test (only on Android, only for randomly invited users) makes me wonder whether Nintendo and its development partner, DeNA, should tap the brakes in a huge way.
From a sheer gameplay standpoint, Mario Kart Tour is actually a pretty solid facsimile of the classic series, albeit with a couple of puzzling design decisions. But the game’s path to monetization is the most brazen yet applied to a Nintendo smartphone app.
Don’t look! Don’t you dare look at the leaked videos!
In good news, Mario Kart Tour plays much like the series’ past 25 years of home and handheld versions. Race on go-karts through cartoony racetracks while picking up and using weapons (turtle shells, banana peels) and boost items (“nitro” mushrooms, mostly). In this version, your kart automatically accelerates, so use your fingers to steer left or right, tap weapon items to activate them (with a forward- or back-flick to direct them as needed), and pick from one of two drifting options to trigger “micro-boosts” in speed.
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