Forget talking to celebrities and special Oreo cheesecake concoctions created specifically for us. The best perk about our job thus far is the fact that we got to play Mario Kart 8 before it hit stores on May 30.
Sorry for the humble brag, but we did it for science. And for you guys! We had to test it to make sure it was up to snuff.
Our quick review: it's awesome and we're mad that we're writing this review and not playing it right now.
We spent a good five days playing through the game, and we have only scratched the surface on Mario's epic return to the track.
Want to know more? Fine. Here are the best things about Mario Kart 8:
1. New Toys: The old standards are there (damn you, red shell!), but Mario Kart 8 also brings a couple of new items: the boomerang flower, the piranha plant, the super horn and our personal favorite: the Crazy 8. Those are probably self-explanatory, save for the super horn which unleashes a surge in the area around you that takes out drivers and it can protect you from items thrown at you if you time it right. But the Crazy 8? Oh, man. Imagine having every item in your arsenal at once. Yeah. It's amazing.
2. The Course Are Be-au-tiful: The first time we played all the courses through, we kept veering off the track because the scenery was so cool. We wanted to take in everything, and unfortunately our driving really suffered. Even after the tenth play-through, flying through the air on the new Rainbow Road still makes us say "Oooooo, pretty...oh crap, I hit a banana peel on the landing! You suck, Yoshi!"
3. So. Many. Vehicles: The more coins you collect on the tracks, the more vehicles you unlock. And there are so many. Seriously, we lost count after 10. Different bikes, different go-karts, a car that looks like a cat, a car that looks like a priate ship, and so on. There's also just as many wheels to pick and you have a variety of parachutes to choose from. The stats for each vehicle are listed (speed, traction, etc.), but you can't really compare them with each other. You have to scroll through each one, which is kind of annoying. But you'll definitely have a favorite combo by your fifth race, so it's a minor complaint.
4. Battle Mode: Is there anything more satisfying than popping another driver's balloons with a perfectly-aimed green shell? Battle mode in Mario Kart 8 rules, plain and simple. We're big fans of "Frantic Mode," which is basically an all-out war until an entire team gets knocked out instead of just counting up the score at the end of a round.
5. Old School-New School Combo: One of our favorite things about Mario Kart 8 is the way they've taken your favorite courses from other consoles and retooled them. All the elements of say, Moo Moo Farm are the same, but it's just updated. You'll be hit with nostalgia as you leap over those annoying moles burrowing in the ground, but the graphics are way better.
6. The Formula Is Untouched: While Mario Kart looks great and has all these cool new features, the formula you fell in love with stays the same. They didn't mess with it much, and fans of the franchise will really appreciate it. So yeah, we're still hurling curse words when a red shell hits us right before the finish line and mocking Luigi because he totally missed us with that green shell. It feels so right to race like that again.
7. Miscellaneous Stuff: The Wii U Game Pad allows you to see the course map while you play so you can not only check where everyone is, but you can see what items everyone has. Very helpful when you're playing solo; you can have your boyfriend sit on the couch next to you to warn that a blue shell will soon be heading your way. For example.
We don't want to spoil all the goodies and Easter Eggs before you all can play, but just know that this game is exactly what Mario Kart players expect, and so, so much more. Mario Kart 8 is just plain fun. This is the title that will bring people to the Wii U.
Start preparing your insults, because these races are as intense as they are entertaining, and if you're not gleefully flinging a red shell at Donkey Kong, you're swearing at someone else who's nailed you with a Fire Flower. Probably Toad. We hate that little weenie.
Now if you'll excuse us, Rainbow Road is calling our name.