Mario Kart Live: home track
"A full grid of annoyances is forcing Home Circuit from a sweet drift to a disappointing spin."
The kart is well done
It's a pleasure to set up (the first time)
The effects are visually fun
No shortage of content
AR tracking is mediocre
Limited course options
The gameplay lacks depth
The place for Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is wonderful. Perhaps the most popular racing franchise in the entire gaming space, Mario Kart brings it to your living room with a real, physical kart that can move under tables and around chairs. This kart has a camera that provides an AR racing experience through a wireless connection to your Nintendo Switch. Suddenly every room in your house is a race track.
Unfortunately, Home Circuit doesn't work as well as the promotional videos suggest, but it does provide a fun and engaging experience at times that is content for even the die-hard fans of the show. However, like many Nintendo peripherals, it will likely start collecting dust in memory soon after a handful of playthroughs.
Home Circuit is great for a while
Opening the Home Circuit Box was pure, nostalgic joy. The toy kart impressed me with its workmanship and compactness. It's a toy, yes, but one that justifies its $ 100 price tag, especially when you start driving with it.
After you've downloaded the software from the eShop and used an on-screen QR code to pair the kart with your Switch, you're good to go. Driving feels incredibly responsive and the tight turns required to navigate small distances are surprisingly possible even at higher speeds.
The game finally offers a use for leftover Labo cardboard as you have to set up four colored gates around your room to form control points on a track. According to Nintendo, the track size can extend to 15 by 15 feet. After trying to push the size and design to the limit for the week I had the game, I can confirm that you don't want to build any bigger circuits than that. They may look impressive, but they definitely affect the gameplay.
Once the gates have been placed, you can design the track between them as you wish and use the kart to lay out the layout. I have a pretty narrow but long apartment, so I split myself into two rooms and let the kart go under the couch and table for many stretches. The kart ran fine when you drove from the hardwood floor to the carpet under my table, although you need to make sure there are no creases or wrinkles on a similar surface. My carpet became an unintended obstruction if it was curled up too tightly.
Depending on the size of your room, you may need to adjust some directions and spacing of the gates, although you should be able to create a trail even in a very small space. Jumping and piloting the toy kart in the first few races was like any other modern Mario Kart game. Using items and using items against you is snappy and gratifying.
The longer you play, the worse it gets
It is undoubtedly awesome to have a miniature Mario flying around your house, but you may not notice it because your attention needs to be on the game. The spectators can watch the kart at work. I'm sure families will happily get together to see the kart (at least once or twice). However, I quickly discovered that the kart was becoming invisible to the player.
Elemental Effects and Gate Modifiers add enhancements to the gameplay that attempt to reproduce the thrill of other Mario Kart titles, but the races are short and the consequences are not varied. Mario could be frozen by blocks of ice, stuck in puddles of lava, or snapped up by a piranha plant, but in all cases the result is the same: the kart stops. I kept stalling, and it didn't matter how it actually happened.
There are more sophisticated effects such as: B. blowing around in a sandstorm or pulling in different directions through a chain chomp. However, since there is no penalty for leaving the track limits, they don't really hinder your progress. I've learned to ignore them.
It's good that the game doesn't penalize the racer for cornering or leaving the track limits, as the augmented reality circuit keeps shifting and adjusting while driving. The course you set up at the start of the race looks different than the one you take. The game's AR tracking isn't terrible, but it could certainly be better, and it's weird to see the tracks shift slightly as you play.
I drove the kart into bigger rooms, hoping that more light for the camera and more space for the vehicle would alleviate my problems, but it didn't help much. Neither my friend's spacious roof nor a colleague's large performance room provided the experience I was looking for. The races still ended too quickly even on the biggest tracks. The only benefit of shorter runs is that you are never too far ahead of the pack to take it easy, so the races will stay tense until the end.
I wondered if I could use some pieces of cardboard to ramps up to my coffee table and create circuits with height differences, but I ran into two problems. The first was that when changing elevation, AR tracking didn't work well because it could only be played on a flat plane, so the track shifted even more than usual during the game. Also, the kart itself doesn't have the power to do anything other than a very slight incline. I tried gradually building ramps to counter this issue but this quickly became a requirement.
Despite all its problems, I still played a lot with the kart and hit the entire course of the cups at speeds of 50 and 100 cc. I am now making my way through 150cc, although sometimes depending on the course this can be too fast to navigate my space.
There's a solid Mario Kart game at its core here, and I hope the environment and gate effects for the correct ninth episode carry over to the main series, as I think these additions could add something to the franchise.
Even so, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit has too many small annoyances that can only be mitigated by a perfectly sized, perfectly lit room – like in Nintendo's promotional materials. This may still be a hit with kids or anyone less interested in Home Circuit as a game than a toy, but anyone hoping for depth or repeating the game will be disappointed.
Is there a better alternative?
For those who don't have space and don't have a strong craving for the novelty of the toy kart, it's best to stick with Mario Kart 8: Deluxe until the next installment.
How long it will take?
Once you've run through the Grand Prix a few times, there's little incentive to keep playing.
Should you buy it?
If you have kids and a switch this will be a hit with them on this vacation. If you're hoping for a real AR game that will keep you entertained for hours, you've got your wallet in your pocket.