A little less than a month ago I received an email from Nintendo stating that there was a closed beta of the upcoming Mario Kart mobile game that I could sign up for. “This is going to be great,” I thought at first. I have always been a fan of the series and having it on the go could be the game to finally break me into the mobile scene. However, right from the get-go, you can clearly see that Mario Kart Tour is going to have some of the more infamous mobile game features that have been my repellant for years.
From afar, it looks very similar to any other Mario Kart title, featuring a wealth of karts, gliders and loveable Nintendo characters. One caveat though: you will only start with one of each from the aforementioned list. You must play through courses, unlocking them one by one and collect stars, coins and emeralds to get further into the game.
Each currency has its own value but the main one I’d like to discuss is the emerald. This is the real world currency equivalent in the game and although not purchasable in the beta, you bet it will be their big selling point to bring in revenue. This is becoming more and more apparent in games which I would be fine with but the way they implemented buying items makes it less palatable. Instead of using emeralds to buy characters or karts, you must indirectly purchase warp pipes with those emeralds, which are essentially loot boxes. Although the game does give you a percentage breakdown of your chances for who is in the pipe, this is still a gamble and makes the hunt for your favorite character quite a process.
A silver lining to this is that playing the game will unlock rewards such as additional coins and emeralds so new characters are not dependent on real money. To be honest, the rate for getting those emeralds has not been too bad either –roughly 10 emeralds per cup completion. Hopefully they stick to a similar model like Fire Emblem Heroes where the rate of currency is rather consistent as long as you are playing often. But the amount of time that this can take to get the character you actually want might dissuade you altogether since it costs 5 emeralds for each attempt. They also have daily sales where rare karts and gliders are being specifically sold for coins. Unfortunately, every day it seems there are only 6 available slots for sales and once again this is yet another gamble at what might be available that day.
Another lovely mobile feature found in Mario Kart Tour is, of course, time locking. You have a certain number of hearts that represent how many times you can play a course, which replenish over time. If you don’t have enough hearts, no worries, you can always buy emeralds so that you can refill them quicker. To be honest though, so far the heart situation has not been a problem since progressing in the game will often unlock more for you. Where it really becomes a problem is as you get into the game further, the next courses that should unlock are hidden behind a time wall where you must wait for no apparent reason before you can access it. I have not had too much time that I have had to wait so far but have seen some posts of users waiting up to an hour for a course to unlock.
The most upsetting part about this is that I have spent a whole article bashing this game but it is actually fun. It’s a little watered down but it has a lot of the same great elements that make a Mario Kart game special. There are some concerns about you not actually playing against other players but rather AI with real usernames, however, I have still enjoyed a free mobile experience for what it is worth. Ultimately, there will be a point where you collect all vehicles and characters if you play long enough so it is not the end of the world. It just rubs me the wrong way whenever I see these practices because it feels like a ploy to sucker people out of cash for ways to get around mechanics in games that are just not fun. Personally, I would rather just pay for the game to get rid of those but I don’t see that happening anytime soon with this game or the majority of mobile games. I’ll think I’ll stick with Mario Kart 8 for awhile longer.