To many, the idea of having actual Mario Kart taking place in their living room would be something of a childhood dream – but that’s exactly the premise of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit.
It combines a free-to-download game with a physical toy kart and cardboard gates to create a mixed reality experience where players have Mario or Luigi driving around the room in front of them, while they play Mario Kart in all its glory on their Nintendo Switch.
Home Circuit comes together like this: players place the four cardboard gates around the room and then drive the kart – which has a camera mounted on top – through the gates in order to map out their track.
Once marked out, players take part in Mario Kart races on their Switch screen, complete with all the mushroom-throwing, banana peel-avoiding action you expect – but with the added immersion of the virtual setting being overlaid on your living room as the physical kart zooms around the room in sync with the racing.
The result is brilliant fun as all the joys of traditional Mario Kart take on new life as players swerve under their own coffee table or try to stay out of the reach of their inquisitive cat.
Nintendo has also done an excellent job of translating in-game action into real-life impact on the kart – so different environments, such as icy or underwater race settings, influence how the kart handles in-game as well as affect how the real kart moves, so hitting a banana skill will cause the physical kart to wobble just as you do in the game.
The range of game modes is also strong enough to keep players engaged. For single players there’s the Grand Prix mode where you race computer opponents over several races to determine the winner.
Alternatively, players can race against themselves in Time Trial mode, setting race times and then trying to beat them.
There are multiplayer options too, with up to four physical karts able to race against one another locally, though naturally each player will need their own kart, Switch console and copy of the game in order to compete.
And for those keen for a truly unique experience, custom race mode allows users to build their own race environment from scratch, from the race conditions to exactly what items are available at each gate and where they are specifically placed.
The kart itself is sturdy but lightweight and comes in either a Mario or Luigi version that is easily manoeuvrable across any size of living space.
However, the kart performs best on smooth, hard floors and doesn’t take well to soft carpets or rugs.
In testing, we found the kart’s battery life to be good too – lasting for several hours of near-constant racing on a single charge – and a USB-C cable comes in the box to recharge the device via a port on the side of the kart.
The only real downside to Home Circuit is the regular need to stop playing and rejig or freshen up your track in order to keep things interesting and make the most of the space around you.
The price too seems a little high at £100 for the kart set, although the impressive technology behind it and the experience it offers once playing will appease some.
However, there’s no doubt that this is the most original and fun Mario Kart experience there has ever been and any fan of the series won’t regret trying this latest version out.