When Nintendo announced that the second Mario Kart 8 DLC pack was coming earlier than promised, we were appropriately excited. Now that we've had a chance to get to grips with everything this extra content has to offer, suffice to say we're not disappointed.
In this early look at the full DLC pack we check out the courses, characters, 200cc mode and amiibo outfits.
Given that this course has four different versions according to the season (which is randomly assigned every time the course is loaded), it's difficult to refer to it as a single entity. The changes between seasons are hardly game-changing, but many different elements such as falling fruit that provide a speed boost, repositioned trick ramps, and pesky snowmen getting in your way means that you can play this course repeatedly without getting bored. The standard coins have been replaced with the similar-looking Bells from Animal Crossing, and you'll have all of your favourite townsfolk to cheer you on as you careen through the course. All the Animal Crossing references and paraphernalia are incredibly tightly packed, meaning that the whole series has been represented efficiently and incredibly effectively.
Easily the most dynamic of the tracks available, Big Blue is yet another reference to the beloved F-Zero series. Unlike its brother however, Big Blue is one long course split into three sections much in the same way as Mount Wario. As such this course feels even grander than its lap-based counterpart, and trying to keep yourself from grinning profusely as you scream around bends and slide down epic water streams is frankly a fruitless endeavour. The same gameplay elements from Mute City are present here, meaning F-Zero fans should be getting very excited indeed.
An unexpected delight comes in the form of this track. Themed around the Super Bell item from Super Mario 3D World, this train-packed romp allows you to thunder through winding tunnels and jump over (or even on top of) the underground public transport mentioned above. Packed with character, this is easily one of this writer's favourite courses from the new DLC pack.
The enigmatic 'jungle' track from the original promotional image is realised in Wild Woods, a track that brings to mind Shy Guy Falls, which is no bad thing. Littered with anti-gravity sections, you'll be racing up and down mighty trees, across precarious pits and through a raging river, complete with lily pads that can give you a very welcome boost of speed.
Legendary in its simplicity, Baby Park makes its triumphant return after many long years of fans crying out for its reinstatement. Not much has changed in this HD reimagining, but now that the course is entirely anti-gravity based knocking into your opponents is much more fun than it was in Double Dash. You'll also be racing 7 laps of this course as in the GameCube original.
Many snowy or icy levels are notorious for having slippery surfaces to help illustrate the environment you're racing in. Cheese Land takes this idea but instead applies it to a dairy treat. Tricky corners, well hidden shortcuts, and regular 'potholes' that you can perform a trick off means that this is not a course to be taken lightly.
Like or loathe it, you'd be mad not to like it. The notorious 3DS track returns and the upgrade has been kind to its unforgiving hairpins and slippery, rain-soaked sections. Whilst the challenge has been somewhat lessened compared to its original form, the track is still no easy ride, particularly if you're brave enough to try and attempt to tackle it at 200cc. Note: 'B' is the brake button; you'll need it.
From the flat plain of the GBA original comes a winding, dynamic track that bears little resemblance to the original. Taking place inside a cihld's bedroom, you race to the mechanical cheers of many toys from the Mario universe, such as Toad Minis from the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series and some utterly adorable Yoshi's Woolly World yarn amiibo. This course is fairly simple in its layout, but due to having almost no barriers, you may find yourself careering onto the playroom floor if you become complacent.
Another crucial element to any Mario Kart experience is of course the characters you can choose to race as. Villager comes in both male and female flavours, and both emit extremely charming sounds from the Animal Crossing franchise rather than speaking, obviously. Isabelle is much the same in her demeanour, and as hard as it is to cope with coming in the bottom half of the running order, she still manages to remain chipper, optimistic, and adorable. All three of these racers fit beautifully into the Mario Kart aesthetic, so much so that you may have to remind yourselves that they are in fact from a separate series altogether.
The final new character to join the fray is Dry Bowser, the skeletal variation of Mario's life-long nemesis. No only does he look the absolute business, but his animations are suitably dynamic as well. The cracks in his shell glow orange whenever he boosts, and he'll happily spew out a burst of flame if he pulls off a stunt. Naturally this bag of bones is as heavy as they come, meaning fans of bulky, no-nonsense drivers will find plenty to love about him.
Like its owner, the Bone Rattler will strike bags of fear into the hearts of your opponents. This heavy 'quadbike' throws handling out of the window in favour of pure, unadulterated speed. The City Tripper is the only bike in the lineup, and is a gently balanced machine designed for those who are more concerned with getting around corners as opposed to shooting off into a wall at three times the speed limit. The Streetle is very similar to the City Tripper in many regards, but is obviously a kart. The whole thing is frankly adorable and the fact that the wings open up when you hit anti-gravity is the icing on the cake. Last of all is the P-Wing. This kart is based around the item of the same name, and is appropriately nippy around the course. Whilst not as heavy as the Bone Rattler, its cornering is noticeably more forgiving, so it may be the vehicle of choice as you get to grips with 200cc mode.
The feather in the cap of this pack is the 200cc mode that is included in a free update alongside the additional content, meaning that you'll be able to enjoy it even if you don't download the DLC. It does have to be unlocked however, but most veterans will likely have fulfilled the requirements long before the update is released.
Trying to describe 200cc mode is difficult. The easiest way to understand it is to think back to when you first played Mario Kart 8, where you were bumping into walls, falling off the edge and losing all your coins every 100 yards. Playing 200cc is like having to learn everything all over again - the difficulty is tremendously increased, meaning if you're new to the series you'll definitely want to master the slower speeds before trying to take this bad boy on.
Most excitingly, the extra speed means that if you choose a character with limited handling you'll have to start braking to get around some corners correctly, meaning that many of the lighter character/vehicle combinations are suddenly much more viable in competitive situations. All of a sudden a high speed stat is as much of a hindrance as it is a help, so you'll have to think twice about picking Waluigi with Cyber Slick tyres.
Much like the previous DLC pack, if you scan your amiibo on the appropriate menu you can unlock special outfits for your Mii character to spice up your style. The characters included this time around are Bowser, Wario, Olimar, Sonic, Villager, Mega Man, Rosalina, PAC-MAN, and Toad. It's a nice little addition for anyone who already own the appropriate amiibo, but the effect is merely aesthetic, so don't go wearing Sonic's outfit just because you've gotta go fast.
Overall this DLC pack is just as exciting as the last one, the courses are all fantastically well refined and none of them leave you bored or uninterested. If you ever feel this way about Mario Kart 8, try slipping into 200cc mode, and you're sure to get your fire back in mere moments.
Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2 will be released on 23rd April.