Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2014-07-07 06:46:46
Mario Kart H8
Mario Kart 8 is an infuriating video game. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy it and have just passed 4,000 points on its online mode, which is respectable enough, given that I don't have as much time to play it as I would like. But for every enjoyable race that goes according to plan and results in a 1st place finish, there are five races where you'll be 1st for the first two laps and then get bombed with a blue shell, two red shells and a mega horn pushing you back into 8th place - right before the finishing line.
This is, of course, the nature of Mario Kart. The games are balanced reasonably well - being a good racer certainly makes a difference and will ensure that you do more often than not end up in a high position. However, you could be the world champion and still get hit by a red shell seconds before winning the race; and there's not a lot you can do about it. It's annoying, especially when you know victory has been robbed from you at the last second by a cheap and unavoidable tactic...but you suck it up, because Mario Kart is hardly a game for professional competitors and chances are in your next race you'll breeze through without being hit by a single shell. This uncertainty keeps you playing - you get destroyed by cheap gameplay mechanics enough times to identify there's a very real issue with Mario Kart, but not enough that you feel motivated to actually do anything about it. I can't think of any other game I've played that has been so cheap and annoying and yet has kept me coming back for more over and over again.
However, as a prime example of just how ridiculously unfair Mario Kart can be, I direct you to this video from Mario Kart Wii, designed to illustrate how you can go from first to last in a way that has to be seen to be believed:
This is certainly an extreme example of getting 'Mariokarted', but it does show quite aptly how the game is designed to be utterly relentless - and how first place doesn't mean a whole lot when Big Brother Blue Shell makes you his bitch. As enjoyable as the series is, there's no denying that the game can be utterly cruel.
Conversely, however, the cheapness of the game is only an irritant when you're the one losing out to it. When you're the one gaining from it it's a whole other story. I love it when I'm in 10th place and I get a triple red shell (and use two of them on the same person in quick succession). It's a great feeling to pick up a Bullet Bill power-up and blast your way across the track, taking out three or four people on the way. It's also very easy to laugh at someone in 1st place getting hit by a blue shell when you're in 2nd, giving you a chance to speed by them at the last second of the race. Mario Kart is an odd mix of pain and enjoyment...a game designed to be equal parts frustration and reward. It's not always fun playing the games, but I suppose the one consolation is that everyone else playing is facing the same level of unfairness as you - which, in a weird way, makes Mario Kart surprisingly fair.