MARIO KART 8 is the game that Wii U owners have been waiting for, and - six years after Mario Kart Wii made its debut - it has finally arrived.
If you're like us and you still get a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever you get a new Mario game, Nintendo's latest release, although it has its flaws, is unlikely to disappoint you.
The first thing you'll notice about Mario Kart 8 is simply how gorgeous it looks, and it's the first iteration in the series where we feel like the game is living up to its full potential. The HD quality will likely even have PS4 and Xbox One gamers gawping, and Nintendo has certainly made the most of it. You'll see sparks fly off tyres as you drift around corners, the grimace on your opponents face as you bash them with a red shell, and even water drying on the camera lens as you reemerge from the watery depths of Dolphin Shoals.
Before you can enjoy all of this, you face the enormous task of choosing your vehicle setup. Much like in Mario Kart 7, you now choose your car or bike, wheels and glider - a feature that, once you master it, you'll love. At first, we found picking our perfect setup a frustrating task, and struggled to find the right balance of acceleration, handling and, most importantly, speed. Once you get it right however - we've settled on the Jet Bike with Slicks and a Plane Glider - setting up the game will no longer take you half an hour, and will make gameplay much more comfortable.
Some new characters have been introduced, too. As well as being able to play as your Mii character in a stylish helmet, you can opt to play as Iggy, Morton, or - if you so wish - Pink Gold Peach. Those used to playing on Nintendo's previous generation Wii console might find it tricky to compete against these new characters, however, as they have certainly upped their game since the release of Mario Kart Wii. While on the last game we quickly three-starred all of the courses on 50cc, we found ourselves struggling to keep up with the AIs, which are definitely more aggressive and don't hold back in Mario Kart 8.
Of course - that just adds to the fun, although we did find the game felt slightly unbalanced at times, which we'll talk about more when we get to multiplayer.
You'll find the standard 32 courses, which are a mix of new courses that take advantage of the new anti-gravity mode, and retro tracks that have been given a high-definition makeover. To name a few stand-out courses, there's Sunshine Airport, a beautifully designed course where you drive through the middle of an airport and jump through planes to bag items; Electrodome, a disco-inspired track where you glide across track reminiscent of a light-up dancefloor; and - of course - Rainbow Road, which now has two iterations.
The new items Nintendo has introduced mix things up, too. The Potted Piranha Plant is among our favourites, as it automatically chomps on obstacles, and - most importantly - your competitors. Super Horn is a neat addition too and means that those in first place finally have an escape from the dreaded blue shell, while those lucky enough to bag a Crazy 8 will find themselves with a Coin, Bob-omb, Mushroom, Star, Blooper, Green Shell, Red Shell and a Banana.
Nintendo has also reintroduced coins to the Wii. Get 10 coins and you're flying, but find yourself with zero in the bank and you'll likely struggle to compete.
Next: Gameplay, multiplayer mode.