'Mario Kart 8' DLC Review: Excite Your Bike

The first half of Nintendo's Mario Kart 8 DLC is out now for £7, or £11 for both (second half coming May 2015).

'Mario Kart 8' was one of the best and most straightforwardly fun games of 2014, and now it's even better thanks to the first batch of downloadable extra tracks, available from the Nintendo Wii U eShop.

There are two new packs coming, each with eight new tracks, three characters and several vehicle customisation options to add to the 32 tracks already available in the main game.

The downside is obvious: you have to pay. Each pack alone is £7 or you can get both for £11, with the second of the two coming in May 2015.

But the upside is that you get… more Mario Kart. And that can never be a bad thing.

So it proves. The first of the two DLC packs is a riot, with a great mix of new courses inspired by Mario Kart's past and Nintendo's rich gaming history. Some - like the straightforward two-corner 'ExciteBike' inspired course and the rebuilt SNES Rainbow Road are a little flat -- literally, in rainbow road's case. But others are masterpieces, even placed alongside MK8's already brilliant track lineup.

The Mute City course, for instance, which takes its inspiration from much-missed SNES-era racer F-Zero, is brutal and fast, and loops majestically in bright shades of blue and purple. The Zelda-themed Hyrule Circuit takes you through a castle that looks like it's straight out of Ocarina of Time. Both are fun to drive - but it's the little touches that push it over the edge. In Mute City, driving in the old 'pit lane' areas of the track fill your coin meter. In Hyrule Circuit, the coins are replaced with Rupees.

There are other highlights too. The Wario Mine Wii-era course is rebuilt and is even loopier and more vertigo-inducing than before, while Dragon Driftway is the most insane, gravity-flipping course yet to appear in the game.

The new characters and vehicles are great too. You get Raccoon Mario, Cat Peach and Link himself, who also benefits from a new bike designed to look just like his horse from some of the Zelda games. There is also an F-Zero-inspired cart and a rebuild B-Dasher cart.

Mario Kart 8 is a ridiculously good game, and this inexpensive DLC is a no-brainer if you already own it. The only issues are that we have to wait until May for more, and also that the game itself flows so smoothly that sometimes it doesn't actually matter which course you're playing. Unlike the twitchy old Karts of the past, MK8 doesn't trade in super-sharp corners and tight windows of chance. All of the courses are easy enough for expert players and don't experiment with the modern 'slidey drift, wide lanes' formula. That said, when the formula is 'genius', you can't blame Nintendo for that.

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