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.

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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.

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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".

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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.

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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

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Verdict

5starstechdarkblue

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



Electrodome

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.

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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.

  |   March 6, 2014   12:59 PM ET

Rev your tiny engines and shine up your spiky red shells: Mario Kart 8 is coming soon.

The latest instalment is one of the most influential and playable racing games of all time will be released on Nintendo Wii U on 30 May.

To mark the release Nintendo have announced a range of promotions and news about the game - and a new trailer, which you can see above.

The new tidbits of info include:

  • Super Mario Kart will hit the Wii U eShop on 27 March
  • Mario Kart 8 Limited Edition will come with a Spiny Shell ornament
  • Anyone buying Super Mario Kart will get a £5.49 discount from the new title when it's released
  • Mario Kart-themed keyrings will be available from different outlets when you pre-order (see Nintendo's site for details)
  • Super Mario Kart-themed wheel will be available from Game

  |   February 17, 2014    2:21 PM ET

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U) is the latest in the great ape's platforming adventures, out on Friday.

The Pitch:

"Control the Kongs as they leap, run and roll through action-packed stages on a quest to reclaim Donkey Kong Island from the marauding Snowmads! Use each character’s unique moves to explore every corner of all six islands, unearth special items and even hidden exits!"

Verdict:

Platformers have been around longer than almost any other type of video game. And while the genre has splintered and recombined into a thousand different forms and types since then, from 3D adventure games like Tomb Raider to ultra-simplified mobile titles like Canabalt, the core popularity of jumping on platforms with little cartoon characters - even in their original, retro form - remains intact.

And it's still a creatively vital genre, too - look at the ecstatically received Rayman Legends, Super Mario 3D World and Tearaway for evidence.

The tension at the heart of the genre, though, is obvious. When you're basing your game on a mechanic arguably perfected in the mid-1980s you'll need some new ideas - but you don't want to change everything and lose the essence of what made this type of game fun in the first place. The temptation might be to just put an HD sheen on an old game and hope nobody notices - something Nintendo has done more than once in the lifetime of the Wii U. Or try something entirely new - like the recent Sonic Lost World did in places - but risk failure.


'Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze', Nintendo's new Wii U platformer, is a good example of how those tensions can work both for you and against you. With more than a debt to the original SNES squillion-selling game, and the more recent Wii 'DKC Returns', it's a total genre platformer, which retains pretty much everything you may already know from the Donkey Kong series. It's 2D, and difficult, and goes left to right, and as such it occasionally seems overly familiar and a little bit dull.

That said, developer Retro are willing to throw in both new ideas and a new sense of graphical polish and mechanical tightening to keep things feeling fresh. And the result is that you'll be pleasantly surprised far more often during the game than you would have any right to expect.

There's about 12-15 hours of game here, with six themed islands to explore and dozens of levels, boss monsters and secrets to tackle. Each stage is a mix of path-finding, reactions-based jumps and challenges, combat and puzzle solving, but with a totally different sense of weight and momentum to the movement than you'll be used to from Mario and Rayman games. There are also two new smaller members of the Kong family to help Donkey Kong get through the levels, each with their own special abilities, and chances for less expert players to buy items to help them through. It's less well judged in multiplayer, where the deliberate nature of the levels starts to fall apart. But that's only an occasional issue.

Obviously, as you can tell from the footage, the game also looks fantastic, with the HD graphics shining on Nintendo's upgraded console and the constantly moving camera swinging and zooming at set moments to give players the best view of the brilliantly realised scenery.

This is a game which uses stunning design, inventive ideas and graphical polish to turn what could have been a fairly retread into something which feels more like a genuine masterwork. The downside is just that there's very little here you won't have seen before - or at least that you won't believe you haven't seen before. There's little attempt to use the Nintendo gamepad for anything beyond off-TV play, and no spectacularly imaginative deviations from the Donkey Kong formula. The loading times are egregious, some of the story elements are dull and the enemies are generic.

You can't say this is anything other than a totally gorgeous, fun and engaging platformer. It's just, that's all it is.

4starstechdarkblue

  |   February 14, 2014   11:21 AM ET

Mario Kart 8 will be released on May 30th in the UK, Nintendo has announced.

The new instalment in the classic series of racers is a key release for Nintendo and its Wii U console, which saw a wealth of critically acclaimed releases in 2014 but achieved lacklustre sales.

The new game will arrive under a huge amount of scrutiny, but as far as we can tell established fans shouldn't worry too much.

In a limited play test last year the game showcased everything we already love about Mario Kart, but added new gravity-bending tracks, and a range of new characters (Bowsers minions, 'Iggy, Larry, Ludwig, Morton, Roy and Wendy').

In a 'Nintendo Direct' press announcement the company added that 'Little Mac' from the classic NES game 'Punch-Out!!' will be present in the upcoming release of Super Smash Bros for Wii U, while Nes Remix 2 will be released on 25 April and Super Luigi Bros - a new right-to-left scrolling platformer - will be released soon too.

Nintendo also announced:

  • Game Boy Advance titles coming to Wii U Virtual Console: Including Metroid Fusion, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, and Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3.
  • Mario Golf: World Tour for 3DS will have extensive training and customisation modes
  • Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate for 3DS in 2015
  • Bayonetta 2: A new trailer for Bayonetta 2 showcased the Umbran Climax, a single, powerful attack that allows Bayonetta to release all her accumulated magic power.

Michael Rundle   |   January 21, 2014    1:16 PM ET

Dr Luigi (£13.49, Wii U) is an update to the classic Nintendo Tetris-like puzzler available on the eShop.

Key Features

  • Classic 'Retro Remedy' mode
  • Operation L mode adds L-shaped blocks
  • Germ Buster uses touchscreen controls
  • Online multiplayer and leaderboards

The Pitch

"Armed with plenty of multi-coloured, two-part capsules, help Dr. Luigi clear a bottle infested with nasty viruses. Annihilate the nuisances by dropping pills of the same colour next to or on top of them – create a horizontal or vertical line of four or more like-coloured pieces and they’ll disappear. Empty the whole bottle to move on to tougher challenges – but if it fills to the brim, the viruses win!"

nintendo

Verdict

As with seemingly everything Nintendo releases these days, Dr Luigi is a remake of an old established classic. But this time, instead of totally re-imagining an already beloved game, or updating the graphics to the point of literal beauty, the Japanese wounded giant has instead slightly updated a minor league, but really fun, title, and asked you to pay just under £15 for it. No less than that - but also not much more either.

The game itself is simple, addictive and extremely robust. Like so many puzzle games of its era (Dr Mario first appeared in 1990) it takes Tetris as its starting point, and adds just enough of a twist to turn it into something new. In the game Luigi puts on a white doctor's coat, and attempts to destroy viruses by manipulating dual colour 'pills' which fall from the top of a bottle down to the floor. By building rows or columns around each little germ in the right colour, you can take them out: if a red germ forms part of a four-red line, it's destroyed, and so on.

At first it's a little tricky, but gradually the game starts to shine - as it always has - as you start to see the patterns and strategies that extrapolate from that simple premise. In multiplayer, side-by-side or online, it's much more fun as each cleared line and combo inflicts horrible wrinkles and setbacks on your opponent.

This time around you get a couple of new modes, too. Operation L adds L-shaped blocks, (… for Luigi) but that's a bit of a let-down, as the blocks each contain lines of three colours and so make it too easy to destroy the bugs. You also get a touchscreen mode, which is nice and works well, but is perhaps a bit shallow.

Otherwise, there isn't much different about the game compared to the original- which given its 33-year long history is pretty strange on Nintendo's part - almost as if the game was once intended to be a more thorough remake, but shipped early. The graphics are very basic -- utilitarian and then some -- and there isn't much else in the presentation or mechanics to write home about.

The major downside is the price. Dr Luigi plays like a game you'd buy for a couple of quid on the App Store, and play on the train until you get bored. Instead it costs north of £13, and you can only play it at home. Whether or not that makes sense to you depends on whether you still love Dr Mario enough to cough up the cash, or whether there are enough people in your house who'll play it with you on the sofa.

Then there's the elephant in the room. For with the Wii U in such dire straits, Nintendo needs more genuinely new and unique games on which to peg the console's future - or rather, its rebirth. Dr Luigi is a nice to have for existing owners, but in the wider context of Nintendo gaming it feels like a weird, overpriced and unhealthily nostalgic distraction.

3starstechdarkblue