Here's Yet Another Reason To Get A Wii U

Michael Rundle   |   December 1, 2014    3:07 PM ET

'Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker' is out for Nintendo Wii U on 2 January 2015

After a miserable 2013, this year has been something of a triumph for Nintendo. To some extent that's just a question of making good games - and it's done that with aplomb. It's released at least two absolute classic Wii U system sellers in Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros, and a clutch of other excellent titles for its handheld and living room systems.

But more than just quality control, Nintendo has done something else in 2014 - it has found its voice. A sort of quiet, creative madness - a great artist, locked in a small room, building whole worlds out of primary colours and bricks.

And for all the bombast of its marquee titles, it's arguably 'Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker' which shows what that really means.

facebook magnifying

'Treasure Tracker' is essentially an expansion of a mini-game from last year's Super Mario 3D World. You are the titular Toad, a hardy, brave little guy who -- alas -- cannot jump. Your task is to explore various small, but wondrously intricate puzzle-box stages for gems, and collect the star locked away (usually in plain sight). To do this you have to navigate standard platform obstacles like mechanised enemies and moveable blocks, but also rotate the entire world with your gamepad, looking for entry points and solutions.

It plays something like a cross between basic Mario and the iOS classic 'The Room'. It's not expansive but it's deep, clever and inventive. And while the original mini game gave a brief glimpse into the concept, here it's mined to literal, and delightful, exhaustion. You'll travel to haunted houses, ice worlds and castles, defeat bosses with your brains (not your button bashing) and have a tremendous amount of fun in the process.

And that's the point, really. The core of this game is an idea that would just about sustain a middling iOS hit. As a full console release, in theory, it's almost painfully thin. But in practice it's almost as rich as any open world shooter or racing game - and it's imbued with a love and originality that no hipster indie developer can match, no matter how many art degrees hang on their wall. It functions perfectly. It's filled with content and is surprisingly replayable. And it couldn't have been made by anyone else.

Nintendo is pretty bad at some fairly important things in the world of games, from engaging with the rich sea of opportunity outside of its own hardware to actually making that hardware good.

But what it can do better than anyone is take the simplest game idea in the world, with an art style and central character we've seen in hundreds of forms over three decades, and make you fall in love with it.


Michael Rundle   |   November 20, 2014    3:29 PM ET

'Super Smash Bros' is out on Wii U on 28 November in the UK. Its handheld counterpart is out now.

Key Features

  • 8-player brawling multiplayer
  • Support for Gamecube controllers (via peripheral), 3DS input and more
  • Tons of game modes, including 'Smash Tour' board game
  • 50 characters at launch
  • Integration with Amiibo figures


I have played Smash Bros a lot over the last two months. I played and reviewed the 3DS version, and over the last few days have been getting stuck into the even-better, even-more gorgeous Wii U edition too.

And I'm still not sure I know exactly what's going on.

It starts out fine: I usually chose 'SMASH' as my game mode (there are many, including various career-style progression modes, multiplayer and challenge 'events'), select my character from the dozens available (Mario, maybe, or Link, I keep it classic). Then the random stage loads, I prepare to fight and…

Then something happens. There is button bashing. There is jumping. There are changing backgrounds, mid-game events, hyped-up attacks and bright lights. And after two minutes it's all over, and I wake up.

That's almost all I've got.

The fact is Smash Bros just isn't that approachable. Not in the same way as Mario Kart, at least, where the limited controls mask its genuine depth and weight, and also allow its charm to breath and beguile new players into its glow. Smash Bros is infinitely more rewarding at the higher levels, I'm sure, but it is also far more complex and brutal. You have to play with six digits in constant motion - more than most guitar riffs - and know your fighter extremely well to make any headway against decent AI or human players.

But that sense of mild frustration and angst is not all I feel after playing Super Smash Bros. I feel something else too.


If you break through its unintelligible outward appearance, and take the time to learn how attacks, special-attacks, Smash attacks and weapon attacks work, how shields function and when they are useful (and not), why some characters jump better than others and why the hell anyone would want to play as Kirby, what you'll find here is an absolutely ridiculously entertaining game.

Yes, it's gorgeous. Yes, it's exhaustive and rich, charming and joyful as all of Nintendo's best moments are. But Super Smash Bros works mostly because of something more immaterial and complex: tuning. This game is honed to an exceptional degree. It knows precisely how to manage speed, strategy, comic violence and wit. Attacks feel solid, and hefty, but you always feel vulnerable too and under pressure to get-it-right.

But it is also a game that will take time to appreciate. For us, as reviewers, this is partly because several key features - online play and Amiibo integration - were not available pre-review. But it is also just the way of things with Smash Bros. As this stunning article points out, this is a series into which fans go deep. Really deep. The balancing of characters is imperfect, but intoxicating for that exact reason.

The action is hard to grasp, impossible to ever master, but enormously entertaining all the same.

It is also, frankly, the game that makes the Wii U definitively unmissable. Nintendo's console might not be a sales titan, but it's already a classic. Super Smash Bros joins Mario Kart 8, Super Mario World 3D, Pikmin 3 and several other first-party games as stone-cold modern, HD classics that will not - and could not - appear on any other machine.

If you love games, you need a Wii U. And you probably need Super Smash Bros too. It's not the easiest of games to love, and it will frustrate you. But if you allow it under your skin, it will drive you to distraction.

Just don't assume you'll be able to explain what playing it actually feels like. I've been trying for months and… I've got almost nothing. Just joy. Just joy.


Michael Rundle   |   October 13, 2014    1:41 PM ET

Bayonetta 2 is out for Nintendo's Wii U on 24th October 2014.


  • Insane action-packed gameplay
  • Full, inexplicable single-player campaign
  • Co-op mode and 'arena' single-player missions
  • Lots of unlockables



Once you've accepted that Bayonetta 2 is essentially inexplicable, and plays like an MTV video DJ attempting to navigate his way home from Soho in 1991 who - while coked up to his eyeballs - is being attacked by tiny ninjas only he can see, and also everyone is almost - but not quite - totally naked and you're standing on top of a fighter jet, and there's a giant dinosaur monster thing, and it's spinning, spinning, spinning and now it's eaten you and HIYAH take that hair demon! - it becomes pretty enjoyable.

You have to accept all of that first though. Because while this is ostensibly an action-fighting game dedicated to the art of the c-c-combo, the well-timed bullet-stiletto kick and the risible cut scene, it doesn't do much to bring new players into the fold easy. (Which is odd, because it's on the Wii U, which is hovering on the edge of oblivion, but let's ignore that because something something Nintendo needs a hit and by the sounds of it, they paid through the nose for it, even if the original wasn't really a hit anyway.)

Bayonetta is a ridiculously proportioned, frequently naked, presumably human witch who fights and summons demons made occasionally of her hair. Your job is to control this totally bananas character through a 3D world of endless enemies, non-stop action and set-pieces and reach the last cut-scene, which you should never watch, to sum up a story which you should never attempt to explain.

The fighting is simple but has tactical depth, and you'll have to make assessments of battlefield priorities and enemies to dispatch first in order to make it through. You can also use 'Witch Time' to send the battle into slow mo and give you some breathing (and thinking) room.

There's lots on offer to sink your bizarrely elongated teeth into, too, with collectible weapons which can be held or strapped to the legs, along with creatively hideous special moves. It looks bright and colourful, and while it doesn't retain the same initial mania of the intro battle it's spectacular, in a previous-gen sort of way. Alas this is yet another Wii U game that essentially ignores the Gamepad, using it only for a touchscreen control scheme and Off-TV play, but there are some neat Nintendo references thrown into the mix and a decent Co-Op mode.


As ever with this sort of game - and Bayonetta in particular - the trick is having the patience, skill and mindset to see through the panic and confusion to the depth and precision underneath. And it is there - this is an extremely well balanced and tuned game - if you choose to look for it. The learning curve is steep, and the contextual filter you'll need to parse its more batsh*t moments is hefty. Also, you'll have to decide if the combination of overt, but cartoony nudity and schoolboy fantasies with which Bayonetta made its name, and returns in full force here, is for you - especially if you're playing it in a room with other humans. BUT if you're able to follow it down the rabbit hole this is an assured action brawler that will probably be regarded as a classic by the same people who thought the original was a classic. I didn't, and I don't, but that's me: I didn't have an MTV show in the 90s and I've never fought a monster on a jet fighter, so what do I know?


Michael Rundle   |   October 7, 2014    1:32 PM ET

Nintendo has announced that Super Smash Bros for the Wii U will arrive in the UK on 5 December.

The game will launch two weeks after the US launch on 21st November.

Nintendo had previously been oddly reluctant to confirm the launch day for the Wii U version - possibly so as not to distract from the 3DS edition of the game, which they has now sold more than 2.8 million copies worldwide.

Nintendo said the Wii U version will come in two bundles, which includes one set with an adapter to use up to four old-school Gamecube controllers with the game.

The other bundle will include a Mario 'Amiibo' figure, the first of Nintendo's new line of NFC-enabled digital toys.

The toys will function in a similar way to Activision's 'Skylanders' and Disney Infinity, bringing new features and characters to several titles and allowing players to download information back into the character.

Nintendo said the first line of Amiibo will be released on November 28th, with the figures including Mario, Peach, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Link, Fox, Samus, Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, Pikachu, Kirby and Marth.

The second wave will include Zelda, Diddy Kong, Luigi, Little Mac, Pit and Captain Falcon and will arrive on 19th December (just) in time for Christmas.

Nintendo explained - though details of how the figures work remain unclear even now - that the figures will bring fans "closer to the games they love":

Each amiibo uses NFC technology to interact with compatible games in unique new ways, providing fresh gameplay experiences and a great value for consumers. Players simply need to tap them to the NFC touchpoint on the Wii U GamePad to activate them, and some figures offer compatibility across multiple games – no additional equipment is required. Fans can buy and collect amiibo, to bring them closer to the games and characters they love. More amiibo will be launched throughout 2015.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U will support amiibo from launch on 5th December, while other titles for which future amiibo support is planned include Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Mario Kart 8, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Mario Party 10 and Yoshi’s Woolly World for Wii U, with more to come. A software update may be necessary to use amiibo functionality for these and other amiibo compatible games in the future.

Talking Project CARS With Andy Tudor at Brands Hatch

Andrew Edney   |   August 31, 2014   10:48 PM ET

At a recent event for Project CARS held at the iconic Brands Hatch race track, I had the opportunity to talk with Creative Director Andy Tudor from Slightly Mad Games.


Project CARS is the most authentic, beautiful, intense, and technically-advanced racing game on the planet.

Create a driver, pick from a variety of motorsports, and shift into high gear to chase a number of Historic Goals and enter the Hall Of Fame. Then test your skills online either in competitive fully-loaded race weekends, leaderboard-based time challenges, or continually-updated community events.

Featuring world-class graphics and handling, a ground-breaking dynamic time of day & weather system, and deep tuning & pit stop functionality, Project CARS leaves the competition behind in the dust.


Andy Tudor is the Creative Director for the video game developer Slightly Mad Studios in London, England.

He is most known for rebooting the Need For Speed franchise with the release of Need for Speed: Shift in 2009, Shift 2: Unleashed (2011), and "The Walking Dead: Assault". The Internet Movie Database also credits him as a Voice Director and Motion Capture Technical Director on previous titles for SCE Cambridge Studio (24: The Game and Primal).

Over to Andy:

And to show off racing around Brands Hatch in the game, as captured from the PlayStation 4 version of the game:

Project CARS will be available for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC in November 2014, and on Wii U and STEAM OS in 2015.

  |   August 27, 2014    8:09 AM ET

Mario Kart 8 is getting bigger and better. And Zelda-er.

Nintendo has announced it will release two packs of additional courses and drivers for their absolutely brilliant karting game, starting in November.

The packs will be available for £7 each, or £11 for both, with releases coming in November 2014 and May 2015.

Nintendo said the packs will feature "first-time crossover characters like Link from The Legend of Zelda series and both Isabelle and the Villager from the Animal Crossing series".


The first pack will come with Tanooki Mario, Cat Peach, Link, four vehicles and 8 new courses.

The second will feature Villager, Isabelle, Dry Bowser, and the same number of additional courses and karts.

"Each AOC pack will contain two new cups, each with four courses, which, in total, increases the number of available courses by 50 percent. The AOC packs include classics like Wario’s Gold Mine from Mario Kart Wii, as well as new courses, some taking place in the worlds of The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing. New vehicles will also arrive with each pack, including the Blue Falcon kart representing the F-Zero franchise in the first AOC pack.

Mario Kart 8 owners who purchase both packs will get access to eight new colours of Yoshi and eight new colours of Shy Guy to race with immediately. To purchase the packs prior to release, users with a broadband Internet connection can click the new ‘Shop’ icon in the game or visit Nintendo eShop on Wii U."

OPINION: Nintendo Won E3. Or No One Did.

Michael Rundle   |   June 11, 2014    2:57 PM ET

As our possibly slightly over-wrought splash this week should have made clear, I don't really think anyone 'wins' E3.

That's not to say the world's biggest video games show is anything less than ruthlessly competitive -- but it's not a zero-sum, well, game. The more good titles there are, the better. The the more hype E3 generates, the longer we can luxuriate in its warm glow like a big, creamy, pre-rendered bath. (I like baths.)

And when it comes to games I'm essentially just greedy. I want more, whatever it is. I want to gaze to the distance of Holiday Season 2015, or Q2 2017, or whatever decade a consumer Oculus Rift chooses to arrive, and while away my remaining days on this Earth dreaming of a brighter, higher-definition version of FIFA, and preferably something even more interesting I didn't expect too. I want more good games, please. Preferably now. That's it.

But with all that said, I think if anyone won... well, it was clearly Nintendo.

Why? Well let's just agree that it's pointless to go into this with any kind of objective analysis. I can't take the entire show game-by-game and come up with a score out of five for the big companies involved. All three hardware makers had some great games, some surprising games, and a few stinkers. None of those games are out yet, and I haven't played any of them. Let's wait and see before we start dishing out review stars.

But on an emotional level? On a gut-check, vision of gaming, which world do you want to live in level? Let's compare:

Xbox: "Futuristic guns… Cars… Cars… Shooting Monsters… Killing French Soldiers… Dragons… Madcap guns… Madcap zombies… Dancing… Admittedly cool-looking fun RPG… Halo… Halo… Halo… Halo… Halo… Apocalypse New York… Dragons"
PS4: "Gruff man… Victorian guns.. Guns and axes… Platformer… Island guns… Magic guns… Zombies… Remastered zombies… Cops 'n' robbers… Platformer.. Tetris.. Cars"
Nintendo: "Paintball squid firing paint like Call of Duty meets Nickleodeon.. fighting toads and plumbers and elves.. a clay pink thing floating about on a touch screen… a weird elf shooting laser arrows.. a little Toadstool hunting for treasure.. some kind of fighting game.. money-making toys… a draw your own adventure Mario game.. dinosaur thing made of wool for some reason swallowing wool for some reason.. "

And this was how Nintendo presented its announcement:

You don't have to be an 8-year-old or a rabid nostalgist to see the difference. Nintendo's strategy of making bright, family games in a market of death and destruction might not be winning it market share -- at least not in the living room. But it's different, in a fundamental, core-of-the-company way. It's the only one of the big three that is still putting Play, in the truest, lightest sense of that word, at the heart of its strategy, products and message. It's ridiculous, genuinely batty, and it's impossible not to love.

Microsoft and Sony are asking you to fight -- to compete, demolish and crush your opponents, and your friends hopes and dreams by owning the best, most powerful and most aggressive hardware in the world.

Nintendo is asking you to make a dinosaur made of wool fly around with his tongue.

That's not to say that I don't want to play GTA 5 in HD, or shoot bad guys in the new Call of Duty, score a touchdown in Madden 15 or play all of the genuinely cool looking indie titles coming on both next-gen platforms.

It's also not to say that Nintendo doesn't make mistakes, release bad or incomplete or poorly thought out games, or need to rapidly reassess its hardware strategy, if not at this E3 than in a few years time. Or -- in the case of the Wii U -- that it couldn't do with at least a couple of those above third-party titles on its own system.

But it was also clear during Nintendo's E3 announcement that when it comes to a vision for what games are, should be and will look like in a year or two years (in the case of Zelda for Wii U, probably, alas), the Japanese joker is the only one of the three that has its head really above the clouds, gazing at the stars and wondering what they'd look like if they were made of yarn or something.

Anyway, back to reality. The line-up of games for Nintendo isn't bad, but could be better. Smash Bros and Bayonetta 2 look great. The new Zelda appears to be dramatically gorgeous, if a bit ethereal at this early stage. Some of the platformers looked a big generic, but Splatoon could be a brilliant reworking of the stale shooter genre, if it's given a chance. Too many of the games aren't out for too long. The Wii U might not last that long.

On the other side, Microsoft and Sony also had some killer titles -- most notably the glut of Halo on the way to the Xbox One, and Uncharted, Grim Fandango and LittleBigPlanet 3 will all be must-plays on PS4. They have momentum, big ideas, money and the allegiance of the hardcore.

If I can, I'll play them all. And I'll love many of them equally. But when I look back to E3 2014, and how each of those companies sees games, and how they want me to play them, there's only one winner. Except, of course, there isn't.

Michael Rundle   |   June 11, 2014    1:57 PM ET

We already knew there was a new Legend of Zelda game coming to the Nintendo Wii U. (Not this one). But until very recently that's literally all we knew.

Now Nintendo has spilled the beans somewhat, revealing the first hard information about the next instalment in the Zelda series.

At its E3 press event, Nintendo showed a developer's video and trailer for the game, which should be out in 2015.

Admittedly, there are still a lot of unknowns. But it's only small stuff. You know, like the characters, story, gameplay and even the game's name.

Okay, we jest -- this game is still very much a work in progress. But let's look at the things we know -- and the things we don't -- in a bit more detail.


What It Looks Like:

In short, it's gorgeous. The brief scene we saw showcased a vast, open world with bright colours, cel-shaded graphics and swaying grass. Clearly given the relative power jump of the Wii U over Nintendo's older hardware we expected it to look good. But this looks like it's drawing every last drop of power from the console - like Mario Kart 8 before it.

We also saw a brief battle which was kinetic, intense and more dramatic graphically than any in previous entries.

How It Plays:

Nintendo has issued a statement to this effect, highlighting the game's open world style and consistency with older entries:

"The newest game in the franchise, scheduled for 2015, introduces the first truly open world in a game from the series. Players can roam Hyrule Field or set off on a trek to distant mountains if they prefer. Players can get to any area they can see from virtually any direction. That’s one of the ways the game breaks with franchise norms and introduces new ways to play."

In the demo Eiji Aonuma said it will include "geographic" puzzles and genuinely open gameplay.

You'll also be riding a horse, shooting arrows (frickin' laser arrows!), and exploring the world on your own.

Who You'll Be:

This one is a little controversial, because the protagonist in the trailer was clearly not the same Link as in previous entries, and has a lot of people speculating that whoever the character is, it looks like a woman (or female elf?).

At this point it's just impossible to say. The character did appear female, and was wearing blue instead of green. Does that mean the game will star Zelda - finally living up to its name - instead of Link? Is Link now female? Or is it a new character entirely? We don't know - but we know what we'd like: make it Link, but make Link a girl, because it's 2014 and it's time to shake things up.

Release date:

It's out in 2015, probably. That's all we know.

Michael Rundle   |   May 15, 2014    1:00 PM ET

'Mario Kart 8' is out for Nintendo's Wii U from 30 May.

Key Features

  • 32 courses (16 brand new, 16 retro)
  • Zero-G sections and tracks which twist and turn
  • New items (Loudhorn, Boomerang, Piranha Plant, Crazy Eight)
  • Mario Kart TV replays, editing and uploading
  • Full online play (12 player)
  • Battle mode




It is possible - not straightforward, but possible - to argue that 'Mario Kart 8' is the most beautiful video game ever made.

It doesn't have the dreamy artistry of 'Journey' or 'Monument Valley', the photo-realism of 'Forza 5' or the pixel-perfect appeal of 'Space Invaders'. But by its own standards - as a living cartoon, a kinetic, absurdly fast racing game and as 'Nintendo' as Toy Story is 'Pixar' - it is right up there. In single and two player the game runs at 60 frames per second, in HD, and never judders, halts or stutters once. Each of the 32 tracks (16 of which are significantly new versions of old classics from the previous 7 games) are resplendent with colour, detail and life. The animation is incredible: each of the dozens of characters has their own movements, styles, quirks and celebrations. They watch each other as they overtake, they cry out in pain as shells hit home. They are immaculately drawn. The game looks like it's made out of rich, creamy, expensive plastic come to life.

Luckily, 'Mario Kart 8' is the among most fun video games ever made, too. Everything that has been good about Mario Kart for more than 20 years is present here, not radically shaken up but not wrecked either, and not without significant additions and changes.

What does that mean? It means that at its core this is a simple, joyous, riotous fast-speed racing game tuned to within an inch of genius. It means edge-of-your-couch battles, with shells flying and feared, endlessly drift-able corners, huge jumps and plunges into water, and tracks that are astonishing in their ambition and edited density.

It is - again - impossible to get across just how entertaining and accessible this game is. Take as an example one of the standout new tracks, 'Mount Wario'. Instead of a straight circuit this is a rare three-stage marathon, which takes you from the cargo bay of an aircraft above the shivering glacier peaks of a mountain (take the tight corner left, or drift wide for an orange boost), over the jump shortcut into a service tunnel and through a dam (at 180 degrees) before twisting into a close forest of ski tracks and trees, before diving again into a slalom course, down a ski jump run and finally up into the air above a giant stadium, where after two final turns end in glorious victory or shameful defeat. It is long and rich, but not over-stuffed or egregious, and endlessly replayable.

Which is not to say the game is just a well-tuned version of what's come before - though it is that, too. There are new elements here which change things significantly. Most obviously, all of the tracks have sections where your car (or bike, or quad's) wheels retract up like a Delorean and pull you around at zero gravity. This brings a strange new drama to the courses and also new elements of strategy - collisions in these zones give you a boost, instead of a penalty, which can lead to some neat tag-team tactics. The effect isn't always obvious at first - the camera twists with you, meaning you're not always aware of your gravity-defying route. But it adds a literal new dimension and is graphically impressive.

There are also new items (a three-use boomerang, the brilliant Piranha which eats coins and enemies that come nearby, and a Loudhorn which sends out a shockwave which can also defeat the evil Blue Shell, previously an unkillable guided missile to the driver in first place). The online mode is expanded with 12 plays and regional/global options, and the Mario Kart TV fully editable and uploadable replay option is a neat addition too. Them there is the all-new full orchestra music - beautiful on its own, and a welcome way to mask the increasingly irritating 'woohoos!' each character utters every few seconds.

What remains exactly the same here is the structure. As with Mario Kart 7, there are eight cups, in three speeds (50, 100 and 150 CC, plus 'Mirror' mode), each with four-tracks and three-laps-a-race. It's fine, but it's repetitive. There is also a curiously tempered battle mode, restricted here to taking place on eight normal circuits and not the usual arenas.

If the game can be criticised, it is perhaps for a lack of ambition. There are only 16 new courses, while the lack of any battle arenas is a crying shame (and perhaps a clue to much-needed DLC to come). It is also a very frustrating game at the harder levels of difficulty, and still can be cruel in how a lead-from-the-front race turns into disaster on the final corner, almost without fail. This is Mario Kart, after all.

But even with all that in mind, it is hard to argue that this is anything other than a total triumph. It's a game your family will love even if they hate games. And if the Wii U falls, as now seems almost inevitable sadly, Mario Kart 8 (along with Super Mario 3D World) will ensure it will always have a place in gaming history.

This is a classic video game, one of the very, very best.

  |   May 1, 2014    2:41 PM ET

As should be abundantly clear by this point, we can't wait for Mario Kart 8.

Which is handy, as the game is now officially less than a month away.

Yesterday Nintendo dropped a huge amount of new info about the game, including details on new items, modes and tracks as well as how the online element of the game works.

We recommend ploughing through the whole half-hour video over here to get a full sense of what's in store.

Luckily we also have a few more specific details about three courses from the game which we haven't yet seen, and also the new battle mode.

Check out the videos below:

Mount Wario

Mount Sunshine Airport


Battle Mode

What We Know About Skylanders Trap Team

Andy Robertson   |   April 29, 2014    8:31 AM ET

With Skylanders Trap Team having been announced, and details coming thick and fast these videos help distinguish rumour and fact.

First, the basics. Activision and Toys For Bob return with the fourth installment of the Skylanders franchise, Skylanders Trap Team. Trap Team features 16 brand new Trap Master Skylanders and 18 new core Skylanders who are on the hunt for escaped villains from Cloudcracker Prison.

All of your existing Skylanders, plus the new Trap Team Skylanders have the ability to trap defeated enemies in crystal traptanium traps which then allow the you to play as those same captured enemies at any time. Traps are slotted into the all new traptanium portal to allow the player to both capture and release fallen foes. You'll even be able to hear your captured enemies talk to you directly from the traps when connected to the portal.

Currently we have these Trap Master Skylanders: Snap Shot (Water), Wallop (Earth), Wild Fire (Fire), "Arkeyan/Mummy" (Undead). We then have these Core Skylanders: Chopper (Tech), Funny Bone (Undead), Food Fight (Life), "Purple gremlin" (Magic), "Purple/black elf with bunches" (Magic), "Turquoise bird/dragon" (Air).

Finally we have these returning Skylanders: Gill Grunt (Water), Trigger Happy (Tech), Eruptor (Fire), Stealth Elf (Life), Jet Vac (Air), Shroomboom (Life) and Pop Fizz (Magic). Then there are the Trappable Villains: Chill Bill (Water), Shred Naught (Tech), Wolfgang (Undead), Chompy Mage (Life) and Kaos.

Beyond the characters that will be available in the game the different console versions will each offer different levels of graphics. The game stretches it's support across three generations of console hardware and we're going to see some noticeable differences in the graphical quality on each platform because of that.

To compare the different versions this video looks at the obvious graphical differences between five official screenshots from the three console generations, which we're loosely going to categorise as follows:

  • Generation 1: Wii

  • Generation 2: Xbox 360, Playsation 3, (& Wii U ?)

  • Generation 3: Xbox One, Playstation 4

Although we can't be sure which of the three consoles the Generation 2 screenshots come from, we can be fairly certain that the Generation 3 screenshots are from the Playstation 4 given the comments from Activision about that platform being their current demo system of choice.

Also, looking at footage of Skylanders: Swap Force on both Xbox 360 and Wii U, it's clear to see there is no noticeable difference in quality, but that may change depending on the developer's experience with the platform.

While you'll notice quite a graphical leap from the standard definition graphical capabilities of the Wii in Generation 1, to the consoles in Generation 2, the leap to Generation 3 is far less noticeable. The Wii cannot compete on texture detail and it shadows are often absent when compared with more modern consoles. Generation 2 screenshots look far more vibrant overall, with characters and locations really catching the eye.

Looking at the Generation 3 graphics we see some less obvious improvements, but the excellent fabric/hair textures on character models, added detail in the background of images and general enhanced clarity overall makes the game look even more appealing.

The upside of the comparison is that even on the Wii, it appears that the charm of the game still shines through. After-all the real appeal of Skylanders is in it's characters and they're well represented on Wii, just not as detailed.

Skylanders Trap Team Starter Packs will go on sale on 10th October 2014.

  |   April 4, 2014   10:24 AM ET

Mario Kart 8 will be released on physical disc and digital download for the Nintendo Wii U on 30 May 2014.

After a few hours spent with Nintendo's biggest game of 2014 - and the most important release ever for its Wii U system - one thing is abundantly clear: in the world of Mario Kart, everything old is... well, if not new again, at least back again.

Don't get us wrong - there is a lot that is genuinely interesting and different about 'Mario Kart 8' compared to its predecessors. But it's worth stating - preferably in big, size 42 font letters, right up front - that this is still Mario Kart.

Which is lucky, as it turns out. Because as we've said elsewhere, Super Mario Kart is objectively the greatest game ever made. And the new one might just be the most fun new game you'll play all year.


In our time with Mario Kart 8 we were able to try 16 courses of the 32 that will be included (8 all-new tracks, 8 re-imagined 'retro' tracks from previous version of the game). We also tried four- and two-player races, a single-player cup and tried out a bunch of the control modes, including Pro Controller, Wii U gamepad and Wiimote with Nunchuck.

And - as we've said - at its core this is very much a Mario Kart game. The controls are familiar in the extreme to anyone who has played a recent instalment, rewarding judicious use of items and power sliding, and the game has the same 'rubber band' style, keeping players in the race until very late in proceedings. It's fun, frustrating and maddening. It's Mario Kart, with 12 racers instead of eight.

What that familiarity fails to overshadow, however, is just how beautiful and alive the game looks. This isn't just the first Mario Kart in HD, it's the first one that feels like a true spectacle. It's bright, colourful and smooth, running at 60 FPS in single player. The crowds are fully animated and dense, the lighting is luminous and each course is filled with details and embellishments, from the live-relay Mario TV screens to signs for 'Bowser Oil' and 'Lemmy's Tire Service'. You might not notice the sheer quality of the visuals at first - cartoony games like this rarely 'dazzle' quite like a more photo-realistic FPS shooter. But let someone else take a spin and you'll gaze in wonder at the imagination on show. Alas, there's a dip in visual quality when you play in three- or four-person multiplayer, as the action tracks down to 30 FPS and the details start to drop away. Multiplayer is split-screen only too - even with one player using the Gamepad. But they're not massive niggles.

In pure mechanics, the biggest additions are the new Anti-Grav sections. In these parts of the track - sometimes optional, sometimes not - your wheels instantly slide up Back To The Future style, and you stick to the twisting road which scoop up your racer into loops, or dive them down and around impossibly tight bends. It's disconcerting at first, but gradually adds a new sense of momentum and fun. There are levels where you'll be racing literally above or below other drivers, while even the Retro tracks have new anti-grav paths and routes to find.

And there are implications to racing strategy involved too. In Toad Harbour, a track set in a seaside city with aspects of San Francisco and New York, the anti-grav sections are presented solely as alternate routes, rewarding skillful drivers with a slightly faster path through the level. There's also the addition of Spin Turbo, where a collision with another player in anti-grav will give you a boost. It's a cool new addition, and should lead to new types of strategy for experienced drivers.

Of the tracks we've played, Shy Guy Falls (an expansive outdoor track with flying sections), Twisted Mansion (a new take on the classic haunted house theme) and the gorgeously colourful Sweet Sweet Canyon are our favourites. But all have their highlights, and will definitely reward further play throughs. We can't wait to see the rest - typically Mario Kart tracks only get bigger and more complex as the game moves on. Of the retro tracks on show, we liked the refreshed DK Jungle from Mario Kart 7 and the Dry Dry Desert from Double Dash the most - but again all were creatively remade to incorporate most of the new mechanics, rather than being straight ports from the older games.

As you'd expect, the game features a number of new customisation options. There are lots more characters including all seven of Bowsers evil henchmen, bikes make a return as well as karts (there are no wheelies this time, but stunts make it in) and there are two new weapons: the Piranha Plant is a neat addition, attaching to the front of the kart and munching other players as they pass by (as well as banana traps and coins), while the Boomerang Flower is a throwing weapon which comes back for three complete throws, and can also be tossed backwards. Both are really fun, though possibly not the game-changers you may have hoped for.

One other small addition will make a big impact for hardcore karters though - the fact that you can now see what items are in your rivals' hands. If the player in front has a red shell, you'll see it - and you might hang back until they've launched it, for instance. The game also has live recorded music and an enhanced replay mode, with editing and uploaded options too.

There are a few disappointments in the build we played, however - among them the fact that the Gamepad is not really used to its fullest, being either a map or a horn, but not allowing for any other interaction by a third-party or second player. There is also a lot we haven't seen - we've only played half the tracks, haven't seen the Battle mode and haven't had a chance to join in 12-player online races, which sound nuts.

But it's hard at this point to see how Nintendo can mess this up. With the core of the game so tight and finely tuned, with a creative approach to its newly 3D tracks, and an attention to detail that puts even its own recent triumphs to shame, it's almost a lock that this will be one of the Wii U's finest games.

  |   March 28, 2014   11:30 AM ET

Super Mario Kart (SNES) is out now for the Wii U Virtual Console for £5.49.

Reviews are not objective. So let's get this out of the way. This is a personal opinion, but I do not think 'Super Mario Kart' is one of the best video games ever made.

I think it is the best game ever made.

Now, there are lots of great video games and for lots of different reasons. Some games are classics because they contain a single genius idea which pops out of nowhere and hooks in your brain like a virus. (Tetris, for instance.) Other games achieve greatness through generating atmosphere (Doom) or emotional resonance (The Last Of Us), or by making you rethink how the world inside and outside your computer fits together (SimCity, or Minecraft).

Super Mario Kart doesn't rely on any of those. At its heart, it is a simplistic racing game, with cute characters, and weapons, and a relatively shallow difficulty curve which punishes mistakes with the cruelty of an irrational deity, and rarely rewards genuine skill except in multiplayer. That's it. On paper, it shouldn't have worked.

But it did. Because Super Mario Kart had a Red Shell of its own: tuning.

Super Mario Kart is tuned like a Stradivarius before opening night at the Albert Hall.

super mario kart

You can feel the nuance, and balance, and thought, in every nanosecond of gameplay. This video game was made by a genius.

It's in the way your acceleration builds, quickly at first, then slowly, slowly, all through the race, to a crescendo of momentum, and how each touch on the brakes feels like a failure. It is contained in how the powerslides provide just enough give to stay on course even on the harshest corners, and in the perfect balance of the weapon and items, the sudden shock of the speed arrows and the juddering thump of a mistimed slam into the walls. It's in the game's famed ability to keep you in the race even when you're in eight place on the final lap, and the almost coma-inducingly perfect way the camera spins around 180 degrees the instant you pass the finishing line.

Everything about the experience of hurtling around the 20 tracks (and three battle arenas) in Super Mario Kart is tuned to within a pixel of perfection. The algorithm underneath it all, whatever it looks like on paper, is a work of art comparable to the Special Theory of Relativity or Google PageRank. It is beautiful.

As a result, playing the latest Wii U eShop re-release of the game is not just an exercise in nostalgia. (Is is that, of course, no matter how much Nintendo tries to tell you the addition of Restore Points and Miiverse integration count as new features.) It's also a reminder of just how fun and pure and perfectly tuned console games have been, and can be.

All that said, you can't ignore too that 'Super Mario Kart' is now 22 years old, and looks its age. Once upon a console generation this fast-paced, sort-of-3D Mode7 racer was the height of high-tech home gaming. But while it still has a low-res pixelated charm, the cracks in the shell are obvious. The cart sprites float on the screen, are barely animated at times and often seem to jostle about for no very good reason. And some of the tracks - the ice and chocolate-themed worlds in particular - are now almost blinding to play thanks to the strobing side-effects of the Mode 7 graphics.

None of that matters, though. Not really. All of Nintendo's Hall of Famers have their merits, but Super Mario Kart is by far the most playable and enjoyable on its own terms. It is every bit as fun as it ever was, and in some ways the modern version of the series still sit in its shadow.

Which is where I get a bit weepy. Because in my mind, people will play this game, in this form, forever. Hundreds of years from now, our ancestors will sit in their bomb shelters, or their glass spires, and load up this game on their brain emulators, and they will Press B. They will fire their precious red shell, and pass their spinning mates at the last corner and laugh. They will just miss that awkward drop in Ghost Valley 1 and feel the glory of the wind at their back as they race on by, or fall into it and curse as they're lifted back onto the track -- and shunted immediately into the drop once again. They will career around Rainbow Road, and see the face of God in the shimmering colours, and Mario will win, and Peach will win, and the music will ripple on the home screen.

Super Mario Kart will live forever. And if I could live forever, I would play it once a day until the end of time.

  |   March 20, 2014    1:11 PM ET

The first gameplay trailer for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil celebrates the excitement and drama of football's greatest event.

Out on 17 April - just under two months before the finals begin on 12 June - here's a peek at what gamers can expect.