Mario Kart 8: DLC Pack 2

Fast, furious fun.


By Louis Balzani
Posted

PLAY THIS IF:

  • You enjoyed Mario Kart 8’s first DLC pack.
  • You want even more quality content for one of the best Wii U games to date.

If any Nintendo game should set the DLC standard for the company going forward, it should be Mario Kart 8. The addition of new tracks, characters, and vehicles over time has given the game tons of additional longevity by building upon the game’s exceptionally strong foundation in smart and creative ways. DLC Pack 1 proved that players will embrace high-quality content at reasonable prices, and with the game quickly approaching its first birthday, DLC Pack 2 has firmly reinforced that idea. If you build it, they will come.

CROSSING CUP

MK8_DLC2_1_smallTo kick things off, Baby Park returns from Mario Kart: Double Dash in all its insane glory, and though I wasn’t sold on its inclusion right away, it actually converted me pretty quickly. The entire track takes place in anti-gravity, and races unfold across seven laps instead of three. Things get noticeably more frantic as you progress, and the music cleverly speeds up as you go; you really can feel everything gradually descending into total chaos. It’s frantic, maddening, and hysterical all at once. It will likely be a thorn in the side of more competitive players, but if you like your races wacky and unpredictable, this one’s for you.

Cheese Land from Mario Kart: Super Circuit is also back, and it doesn’t disappoint. Tight turns and thin track spaces make this one of the more challenging courses to tackle, especially at higher speeds. Small craters in the track give you many an opportunity to trick, though you’ll need to closely monitor your speed and momentum to take full advantage of them. Throw in lots of tight turns and some Chain Chomps, and you’ve got a fun course that makes you pay attention throughout.

The first of the four new original courses, Wild Woods, is where this DLC really kicks it into high gear; its a stunning ride that never lets up. Running the gamut from driving up a tree to flying through a forest filled with Shy Guys, the track sports an engaging design, fantastic ambient music, and exceptional presentation. It’s tough to express just how much I enjoy playing here; as far as I’m concerned, it’s an absolute highlight of the DLC and one of the most creative tracks in the game.

The cup ends with the track that this entire DLC pack is themed around: Animal Crossing. Based on the franchise of the same name, the course presents players with one of four seasons chosen at random in most gameplay modes. Though the seasonal differences are largely cosmetic, all four offer something unique and visually impressive to enjoy. The track design itself isn’t all that exciting, but there’s so much detail and fan service here that it’s hard to fault it too heavily.

BELL CUP

MK8_DLC2_2_smallWild Woods notwithstanding, the visual pinnacle of the DLC comes in the form of Neo Bowser City’s triumphant return from Mario Kart 7. Races more or less play out as they did in the previous game, so there’s not much by way of creative surprises here, but we still get a really fun level with gorgeous visuals that give any other track a serious a run for its money. I can’t stress this enough; I’m really thrilled that this track got a high-def makeover.

Speaking of great visuals, let’s talk about Ribbon Road. Another great showing from Mario Kart: Super Circuit, this track sports some of the most colorful and detailed backgrounds we’ve seen in a Kart game to date. Multi-colored ribbons form the track itself, and when they start wavering in the breeze, it’s a tricker’s paradise. It’s also nice to see another hang-gliding segment that requires you to steer and pay attention instead of making you sit back and watch for a few seconds. I enjoyed this course in its original incarnation, but this version really does take it to a whole new level.

Now we come to Super Bell Subway. I’m convinced that absolutely nothing is gross or seedy in Mario’s world; even the subway is warm, well-lit, and welcoming. Ultimately, I found the visuals and the music to be a bit lacking, and I’d consider this the weakest link of the DLC in terms of its courses. It’s not all bad, though; I do love the idea of a subway system that ties the in-game tracks together, and there’s lots of self-referential graffiti to be found if you look hard enough. Successfully driving on top of the trains is fairly thrilling, too. It’s a good problem to have when the worst track in your DLC only reaches “really good” status.

If you’re like me, you love the tracks that leverage Mario Kart 8‘s unique features in epic and crazy ways, and we’ve got another one of those tracks in Big Blue. Much like the first pack, DLC Pack 2 closes with another inventive F-Zero-themed race, and this one’s even crazier than Mute City. Taking full advantage of the sprawling, 3-section race format, Big Blue covers a lot of ground with conveyor belts, sharp anti-gravity turns, and flowing waterways keeping the proceedings fast and frantic. It’s no substitute for a genuinely new F-Zero game, but as far as epic track designs go, this one definitely works.

CHARACTERS, VEHICLES, AND 200CC SPEED

As with the first pack, DLC Pack 2 offers three new characters; this time around, they’re Isabelle, Dry Bowser, and both genders of Villager. I can’t say that Isabelle is particularly interesting, though Animal Crossing fans will likely appreciate that she’s here. That said, Villager fares a bit better in terms of recognizability and character design; I wouldn’t be surprised if his interminable smile becomes the Luigi Death Glare of 2015. There’s pure evil hiding behind that facade, I just know it. Quite frankly, though, Dry Bowser is my favorite of the three. His trick animations are fantastic, and his shell glows ominously during intense moments such as boosting. If you’re into heavy characters, you should definitely take him for a spin.

This pack also grants players four more vehicles to use, and every major class gets something new. The Streetle and the P-Wing are two fun new karts, the City Tripper is a new bike, and the badass Bone Rattler is the first new ATV to date. Every new vehicle stares its stats with one that already exists, so none of them are likely to dramatically change competitive play, but having more designs to choose from is never a bad thing. These observations also extend to the two new vehicle parts, which are the Paper Glider and the Leaf Tires; they’re nothing groundbreaking, but more choice is always good.

Finally, though it’s technically not part of the DLC pack, I’d be remiss not to mention the new 200cc speed option, which is ludicrously, insanely fast. Moving that quickly changes the dynamic of every single course in the game, and it will occasionally require you to completely rethink who you play as and how you race. It’s a great way to shake up the core gameplay, especially if you’ve somehow grown bored of it. Now’s a good time to figure out how to use the brakes.

All things considered, DLC Pack 2 provides Mario Kart 8 with another fantastic injection of fresh content. Though some fans will lament the continued exclusion of traditional arenas for Battle Mode, it’s hard to argue against everything that’s crammed into this release. It’s a fantastic value, even if you buy it separately at the more expensive price $7.99 price point, and it’s yet another testament to how exceptionally fun Nintendo games can be when they’re firing on all cylinders. Though nothing’s been officially announced, I genuinely hope this isn’t the end of new content for Mario Kart 8. Keep building it, Nintendo, and we’ll all keep coming.

SCORE: 9/10

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