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"Mario Kart 8" Hands-On: Turning a Classic Racer Upside Down

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Mario Kart 8

Nintendo’s long running “Mario Kart” franchise is finally shifting gears into the HD era with “Mario Kart 8,” set to launch on May 30 for the Wii U. We got our hands on the high-speed racer at South by Southwest’s Gaming Expo, learning some new tricks to complement the racing franchise’s signature shell-tossing gameplay.

As with previous installments, “Mario Kart 8” is all about driving, drifting, and hurling bananas at your opponents in the name of victory. None of that has changed, but you can now do all of it upside down with the game’s unique antigravity tracks. 

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Whenever you hit a turn or loop that puts your vehicle upside down or sideways, your kart, truck, or motorcycle’s wheels will adjust so you can keep driving. You can gain a competitive edge when driving inverted, as you’ll automatically gain a speed boost every time you crash into another racer while in antigravity mode.

This new mechanic can make multiplayer “Mario Kart” sessions even more intense and unpredictable, as every upside down passageway turns into a battle to stay on course.

The gliding mechanic from “Mario Kart 7” makes it return here, so you can still look forward to finding hidden passageways by scoring some extra hang time off of jumps.

“Mario Kart 8” marks the series’ debut on the Wii U, making it your first chance to drive around as Mario, Luigi, and Bowser in full HD. While it’s got nothing on Xbox One's "Forza 5," we were delighted to see realistic lighting and shadows grace tracks like the colorful Mushroom Kingdom and dreary Boo’s Mansion, the former of which looked especially impressive upside down.

If you’ve grown tired of series stalwarts like Donkey Kong, Princess Peach, and Yoshi, “Mario Kart 8” will now let you play as Mario menace Waluigi and the pink pigtail-laden Toadette.

“Mario Kart 8” might not revolutionize the racing genre or even the franchise itself, but we had fun knocking our favorite Nintendo stars off-course while drifting upside down on some really nice-looking tracks. The game hits shelves May 30, giving some life to a Wii U lineup that recently gained hits like “Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze” and “Super Mario 3D World.”

Follow Mike Andronico @MikeAndronico and on Google+. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.

·       Should You Buy a Wii U?

·        12 Most Maddeningly Difficult Games of All Time

·        Super Mario 3D World

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