How Mario Kart Tour MANIPULATES You

Bit of a rant today, but Dave was really excited to play Mario Kart on mobile and was all set to do a review, but went a little off course. So before you try Mario Kart Tour make sure you understand what you're in for.
When it comes to major gaming franchises that are popular with casuals, I have no problem with them being released on a platform more accessible to that market, so long as that version does the series justice. Hell a few weeks back I even tweeted to Google Stadia; suggesting should look at getting party games on their platform. I also don’t have a problem with microtransactions in Free-to-Play games, so long as they’re handled with honesty and don’t impact the overall enjoyment. Unfortunately “Mario Kart Tour” fails at achieving both of those low standards. Name’s Dave with MojoPlays, and … this is not a review of Mario Kart Tour, this is a breakdown on the ways the game manipulates you.

I will start off by saying there are a few things I do like about this game: For one We’re finally able to race around the tracks backwards, a feature that’s been needed ever since the introduction of Mirror tracks. I also like the return of the challenge tracks, last seen in Mario Kart DS, as they’ve been long overdue for a return. Unfortunately this is where my praise for the game ends.

I’m also going to explain the problem with the controls by saying … have you tried driving a car with only one finger? Not just the steering wheel but also the accelerator, brake and gears? That’s what the driving feels like game, since it’s exactly that. Sure you can get use to it, but give us the option to play in landscape mode with gyro, like any sensible racing game on smartphones.

The game also has no multiplayer at launch … It’s a Mario Kart game without multiplayer. THE VERY MODE that made the series popular worldwide. Not to mention all of the tracks except the one New York Track, (With 3 more on the way) are all recycled from previous iterations of Mario Kart, majority of which are from the 3DS iteration. The game even deceptively makes you think you’re playing online by having other bots use gamertags from other players.

But the microtransactions, oh my god the microtransactions. Yes it’s a Free to Play game, but “Mario Kart Tour” overreaches way too much. The game’s main currency is rubies, which are used either to pull on a slot machine pipe for a new character or vehicle, or to access the coin rush mode. We’ll start with the lootbox inspired gatcha pipe first because the amount psychological manipulation to make players feel enticed to use this mode is alarming. First the game sometimes gives you a random gold pipe to give you the impression you’re getting something good, it also builds anticipation with a drum roll and nearby Toads cheering. Before giving you overenthusiastic fanfare with your singular prize, and if you get a duplicate; well that just gives you extra experience points to slowly leveling up the item you already have.

Even Battlefront 2’s lootboxes weren’t this stingy, at least those crates gave you multiple items, not just one. Yes we’re now in an era where Nintendo are doing lootboxes worse than EA. What the hell happened? But amazingly the predatory tactics don’t stop there. The other main currency is coins you earn through races, or by spending rubies to access the Coin Rush mode. But good luck amassing enough coins to purchase anything, because permanent items in the in-game shop are prices around 500 to 800 coins. And on average, you’re likely to get 10 to 20 coins per race, though you may get lucky on the off chance and hit 30.

It was here that I noticed another deceptive tactic this game employs; reducing the number of laps from the series standard 3 to 2. The common explanation I heard was that this was to make the game more “pick up and play friendly” but that didn’t make any sense; since the series has been available on previous Nintendo Handhelds with the same direction in mind. Then I also realized the 4th race in each cup sometimes doesn’t have coins since they’re a challenge tracks. And since most players player tend to stick to the cups for a short burst, it means that by only doing 6 laps instead of 12; the amount of coins players are likely to pickup are reduced by half. Giving players more and more of an incentive to drop some rubies to get extra coins.

Rubies are also hard to come by too, the game is very generous to shower you with them when you first start playing, but soon after; the only way you can earn them is either by leveling up, clearing a set number of cups for a one time use. Or … of course you can spend real-world money on them, and even these are awkwardly priced. For starters; the cheapest option of 3 rubies for $2.80 Canadian ($1.99 in the US) is basically useless since the minimum amount you need to buy anything with them is 5. But even if you were to go for the 10 rubies amount, that’s only good to get you two items, with no guarantee you won’t get a duplicate. And the only other option that’s a divisible of 5 is the most expensive choice.

Amazingly, the absurd pricing doesn’t stop there. The game does give you the option to purchase Mario outright … buuut you also have to purchase 45 Rubies with him, all for $28 … FOR ONE CHARACTER? (In the US it’s $20) Which you have to buy with a “special offer”. This isn’t so much an offer as it is over bloating a hot demand item with other useless junk. It’s the equivalent to the cheap trick cable companies pulled when “Game Of Thrones” was popular, by locking HBO behind a channel package featuring extras no one wanted.

But by far the worst monetization scheme this game employs, worse than any other freemium game: is the Gold Pass subscription. For $6.50 a month you get access to … 200cc mode, extra rubies and coins and gold badges that offer no gameplay incentive. I’ve heard from American YouTubers that it’s the same price of the recently released Apple Arcade’s game subscription service, as both are $5 a month over there. Here’s a bit of shocking trivia: In Canada: Apple Arcade is cheaper than “Mario Kart Tour’s" gold pass. Arcade is $6 a month, the gold pass is $6.50. And the former offers you over 100 quality games you can try out without any microtransactions or in game adds at all. i.e. The very reason the service launched, since the App-Store became oversaturated with freemium titles like … oh I don’t know … “Mario Kart Tour”.

Congratulations Nintendo, you’ve officially made “Mario Kart” the best form of positive advertisement for Apple Arcade. Are you proud of yourselves?

Oh sure the game does offer a two week free trial of the free pass, but the catch is in the fine print. You know the sort of things most people don’t bother to read these days? In it; it says that once your two-week trial has expired; your subscription will automatically charge your account, unless you manually choose to disable auto renew from your devices settings. It’s basically a catch for people who don’t read the fine print, and those who still struggle to locate the clock settings on their phone, a way to siphon extra money from the players even after they’ve stopped playing.

Assuming they do stop playing that is, because the amount of cheap rewards the game employs to keep up the shallow satisfaction of earning things is overbearing. Daily tasks, daily log-in bonuses, shops with limited options that rotate every 24 hours, daily limits on how much you can level up your characters and carts, as well as a daily limit on earning coins outside of coin rush, lots of achievements for pitiful rewards (some of which reset after a set number of days), Cups that are drip fed everyday: If there’s a popular Live Service tactic that makes you play everyday; it’s likely Mario Kart Tour uses it.

“Mario Kart Tour” is a horrific blight on such a beloved series. It’s a soulless cash grab that takes advantage of a highly popular franchise; to employ every sort of freemium manipulation tactic in the book. If you want my advice; Get either Apple Arcade or Google Play Pass depending on what device you use; you’ll get more value for money than what it’s gold pass offers. I hate to say it, but this game gives “Anthem” a run for its money when it comes to the most disappointing game of 2019. Let’s just hope Nintendo can correct this crash course before it’s too late.

I’m hoping ... that Nintendo corrects this ship if enough people speak up about it, which is what I’m doing here, so please, SPEAK UP!