Mario Kart 8 releases in just less than a week, and while everybody on the Internet is singing praises about Nintendo’s highly-anticipated kart racer, I cannot help but feel a bit of disappointment when it comes to one small detail. No, this has nothing to do with the game’s watered down of a battle mode (battle mode has not been good for years). Rather, it has to do with the way the GamePad is utilized within the game – that is, if you believe it possess such use at all. Currently, the GamePad’s main function is acting as a horn. Yes, a horn – a function so useless it almost feels satirical. That aside, the GamePad can also be used for more meaningful applications including a map or off-TV play. While these things are certainly fine and dandy, any Nintendo fan could have come up with at least a dozen other interesting ways to make use of the GamePad technology, most of which are far more impressive than anything the game currently offers.
Enough with the introduction; below are five GamePad ideas for Mario Kart 8 that are better than a horn (which is basically saying that they are better than being absolutely worthless, but you get the point).
Here is perhaps the most obvious application of the GamePad screen that many had hoped Nintendo would pursue in Mario Kart 8. With an extra screen at the game’s disposal, Mario Kart could effectively be played with five people: four on the television and one on the GamePad. While it may not ultimately affect how the game is played (and it certainly would not alter the single-player experience), it would have been a nice addition to a franchise best known for its addictive, local multiplayer qualities. It is then very interesting to see a third-party launch game like Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed implement such a feature (albeit with the heavy cost of a major frame rate drop) while Nintendo’s own trademark racing franchise forwent it.
If, for some reason or another, Nintendo felt so strong an urge to place a horn and a map on the GamePad screen, they could have at least done it in a way that was even marginally interesting. One such way to do this would be via a virtual dashboard – that thing in your car behind the steering wheel with all the numbers and dials and flashing lights that are really more distracting than serving practical purpose. Having a dashboard on the GamePad screen – complete with the aforementioned map and horn, alongside a speedometer and other interesting tidbits as time and mileage – would emulate the feel of driving an actual kart. The dashboard would be aesthetically different depending on which kart chassis you choose, which adds a bit of personality to the all-too-generic map screen we have grown used to. Sure, it may just sound novel, but it is certainly more interesting than what is implemented in Mario Kart 8 now.
Another basic idea would be to utilize the GamePad screen as a rearview mirror. This feature harkens back to the Super Nintendo days with Super Mario Kart, and has appeared in most subsequent entries since, including Mario Kart 8. Its purpose is to allow players to see behind them when they wish to plant a banana peel or shoot a projectile backwards so that they can take the most advantage out of the items they receive. The problem with how the rearview mirror works now is that it is displayed on the TV in place of the standard perspective, making the feature annoyingly disorienting to use. Had the rearview mirror been displayed on the GamePad screen, it would have been much better to use.
As we enter the final few items on this list, you will realize that they increasingly rest on the verge of unlikely or insane. Nevertheless, they are, I feel, worth mentioning, and certainly plausible considering this is Nintendo we are talking about here. The first of these is the item launcher. Many people have forgotten this, but the Wii U GamePad features an accelerometer that can track your movements in six axes. Since the first Mario Kart, launching projectiles has been limited to either directly ahead of you or directly behind. In order to add a sort of extra twist into the gameplay, what if players were allowed to shoot in any direction via aiming with the GamePad? Suddenly, the way you play Mario Kart have been flipped around tremendously, adding new challenges and excitement to even the game’s disappointing battle mode (imagine Bob-omb Blast with this thing!).
Double Dash Mode
Mario Kart: Double Dash is not my favorite Mario Kart. In fact, if I were to put my favorite Mario Kart games in order from best to worst, Double Dash would be near the end. That said, I like the ideas Double Dash introduced to the Mario Kart franchise, and I appreciate its attempt to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack. One of my favorite features in Double Dash is the ability to play cooperatively with another player – two players on one kart. The player in front would be in charge of most of the driving, while the player in back could hit other players, fire items, and assist in powersliding. Imagine if you will this peculiar setup in your living room: you have two chairs, one in front of the other, and the player in front holds a Wiimote while the player in back holds the GamePad. Imagine if you could play cooperatively just like you could in Double Dash, but this time with the second player able to spin 360 degrees, shaking the GamePad to hit other players, aiming the GamePad around to launch items, and leaning the GamePad left and right to assist in powersliding. That, my friend, is the ultimate cooperative experience… and the ultimate lost opportunity.
At the end of the day, I cannot help but feel saddened that Mario Kart 8 did not use the GamePad in more creative ways like these. However, as much as I poke fun at its ridiculous horn feature, I am still looking forward to using it while playing. Perhaps it may not be the most practical use of the GamePad technology, but at least I could have a little fun with it despite my apprehensions.
What are some of for GamePad ideas in Mario Kart 8? Sound off in the comments below!