(Cybertech) – Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is part game, part remote-controlled toy set.
Developed by Velan Studios, it uses mixed reality on a Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite screen, combined with a toy kart with an embedded camera, allowing you to race around your home as if you were at the wheel of a kart in Mario Kart.
Does such a clever idea work, or will you just spend most of your time crashing into the sofa? We’ve been attempting to drive our way to victory to find out.
What’s in the box
- 4 cardboard gates
- 1 chargeable kart
- Charging cable
You get a single Mario Kart remote-controlled kart, four cardboard gates to drive through, a couple of arrow signs to help you remember where you’re going, and a code to install the digital copy of the game on your Switch console.
There are two kart versions available – Mario or Luigi – but you only get one of them in the box. That’s a blow if you’re hoping to play multiplayer with another friend physically. The game does support it, but you will have to buy another kart and another Switch, which would make two, three or four player physical racing rather expensive.
The remote-controlled kart
- Mario or Luigi options to choose
- 3-hour battery life
The kart is not overly large; its footprint is about the same size as the Switch without the joy-con controllers connected.
Its in-built rechargeable battery, which lasts around 3 hours, is charged by using the same USB-C charger that comes with your Nintendo Switch (there’s a very small cable in the box – but no power adapter is included).
Built into the kart design is a small camera that, when connected to your Switch via Bluetooth, allows you to get a driver’s view – so you can see where you are driving on your Switch’s screen.
The connection between the kart and the Switch does require you to be relatively close, but we had no issue racing between rooms. It will depend on your connection of course.
The kart has a great turning circle, is zippy and fast, but not overly so that you’ll be crashing every two seconds. If this was an unintelligent remote-control car, you would be disappointed by the speed, but in this context it works well.
It’s best suited to hard floors, but carpet racing does work too thanks to the spongey tyres. However, the karts don’t like rugs, especially thick ones, based on our testing.
Building a course
Unlike Mario Kart Deluxe 8 on the Switch, the premise here is that you literally create your own courses to race around.
You create a course by placing four cardboard gates – which have special markings on them read by the camera, allowing the software to create a course for you to drive around – although what you do in-between those gates is up to you.
Unlike Scalextric, Anki Overdrive, or other physical race-based games where you are restricted to the track you’ve laid, here you are asked to map the course out by physically driving it.
This approach means you can really have some fun going under furniture, over ramps, and anything else you can think up. And while some of your courses won’t be a patch on the courses found in the likes of Mario Kart Deluxe 8, you just know that you’ll spend hours trying to create the perfect course and master it.
Once you’re happy with your course you can lock it in and then race either in a Grand Prix, Time Trial, or a custom combination of the two.
- Physical multiplayer up to 4 players
- Grand Prix, Time Trial
- 24 themed races
There are 24 themed races to compete in and the gameplay is identical to Mario Kart that you know and love, in that you can pick up virtual power-ups – like mushrooms for speed boosts or bananas to knock out other players – as you race. The real fun is the driver’s view of your house as you race around the mixed reality course that you’ve built yourself.
As you race – by default it’s against four Koopalings from the Mario Kart universe, but multi-player with another Switch player and kart owner is possible – you’ll unlock various virtual outfits and kart customisations along the way.
As you progress you can access more speed too. Racing at the slowest 50cc setting feels much faster than it should when viewed on your Switch, helping to deliver that familiar Mario Kart experience. It’s amazing how quickly you get immersed in the driving view on screen and rarely look up to watch your kart whizz around your room.
It can tire though
If there’s one criticism it’s that – much like playing Mario Kart without friends – the experience can tire in the single-player mode.
That’s not to say you’ll stop playing 5 minutes after getting it out of the box, but you’ll need to make sure you make your courses interesting enough to entertain, and big enough to last.
Oh, and that’s a really vital point. You’ll need a fairly big room to play this in, especially once you open up the faster 150cc and 200cc race options.
Thankfully, unlike Scalextric, it doesn’t take an age to build those courses, and others – including pets, as you can see from the picture above – can still use the room. That’s all part of the fun.
Whether it’s the simple joy of playing Mario Kart in the real world, or the sheer thrill of seeing your room from a different perspective, we’ve found ourselves constantly coming back for more Home Circuit playtime with the family.
Our only wish is that it would be more affordable to play head-to-head with friends – because each physical kart requires its own Switch or Switch Lite to engage in physical multiplayer.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit represents the pinnacle of mixed reality. But above all else: it’s super fun and we’ve not laughed this much when playing a game for a long time.
Writing by Stuart Miles. Editing by Mike Lowe.