Mario Kart racing is ready to take over your home
The promise of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is that you’re racing a real car on a real track that you build in the real world. You can’t get more live than that.
The real car is made of plastic and is about the size of a loaf of bread. It’s tough enough to withstand drops and crashes and inadvertent interactions with pets. There’s a camera just above the driver that provides you with a third-person view of races. The game itself is a free download to your Nintendo Switch, but to play it you need a car and the pieces to build a track. You can get a kit with either Mario or Luigi for CDN$130.
The view on your Switch comes from the camera on the car.
To play, you set up the numbered cardboard gates in whatever space you’re going to use for your racetrack—living room? kitchen?—and then you drive your car around the track once. The game then lays a digital world on top of the real world, providing you with an augmented reality (AR) racetrack. You need to stay within about 15 feet of your car to maintain a stable connection between your Switch and the car.
Not your father’s Mario Kart
You select Grand Prix races just like you do in the standard Mario Kart games, and then race against computer-controlled opponents, with the same power ups and hazards you use to thwart other racers in the other Mario Kart games.
As you move up from 50cc to 100cc to 150cc to 200cc racing, the real car will move faster, and obstacles that appear in the AR perspective will impact the real car, even if there’s nothing in the real world to stop it.
This is not your father’s remote-control-car experience.
And you can race up to four other players as long as each of you has a Switch and a Mario Kart Live car.
And therein lies the true cost of Home Circuit.
A solitary experience
Mario Kart remains one of the most engaging multiplayer games ever. It’s an easy go-to when there are four people looking to play something together, and it’s simple enough that anyone can play it.
But it’s not going to be easy to get multiple people together to play Home Circuit, so as much fun as it is to crash around your house with a toy car driven by Mario or Luigi, it’s going to be a solitary experience.
That said, there’s lots to enjoy here. You can customize your racetracks by adding hazards that will appear in the AR world, and you can compete against others with one system with the Time Attack mode, with each of you trying to get the best track time.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a great way to bring the enjoyable racing game into the real world. It’s just too bad it’s not easier to do with friends.