10 things we learned about Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, Nintendo’s mixed reality racer


One of Nintendo’s most intriguing upcoming games is Mario Kart Live: Home circuit. Developed by Velan Studios, it is a title that follows the likes of Labo and Pokémon Go, trying to take Nintendo’s gaming experiences and translate them into the real world. In that case, Domestic circuit is both a game you play on a Switch and a remote controlled racer that will take over your living room.

There’s a lot going on, and I recently had the chance to do a hands-on demo of the game, where I learned some interesting tidbits of what the experience will be like. Here’s what you need to know before Domestic circuitlaunch on October 16.

What you get in the box

The $ 99.99 package comes in two varieties – Mario or Luigi – although both offer the same basic experience. For this price you will have an RC kart with one or the other brother; four cardboard “doors” that serve as the core of your race course; two arrow signs, which are optional course construction elements; and a cable to charge the kart.

You can download the game for free – but you need a kart to play

The game itself, meanwhile, will be available for free download on the Switch eShop. However, while anyone with a Switch can download it, the game won’t actually be playable without the hardware. Very early in the game setup you will be presented with a QR code, which you need to scan with the RC kart camera to continue. Without a kart, you cannot progress beyond this point.

You can play with up to four people

Domestic circuit supports multiplayer with up to four people, but everyone will need the full set to participate. This means a Switch, a copy of the game and a kart for racing. Once you get started, one person will be the host and everyone will play on their course. It sounds like a fun, albeit expensive, multiplayer experience. (There is no form of online multiplayer.)

How you personalize the courses

One of the main attractions of Domestic circuit is that you can build your own yards around your house. And, in a true mixed reality spirit, you do this in two ways. The core of this is the gates, which you use to make the base of your track. There is no one-way course in Domestic circuit. Instead, you use the gates to form the outline of the track, and players complete it by performing laps through all four. You can then incorporate physical obstacles – for example, the legs of a table or LEGO bricks on the track – that players must avoid.

But there are also the elements of the game that only appear on the Switch screen. Doors, for example, can be customized with different features; you can make them drop items, like seashells or mushrooms, or offer speed boosts. Gates can also house obstacles such as rotating fire bars, thwomps or chains, while panels can be used to add extra decoration to a course, with flashing lights and colors. Additionally, you can apply different themes to a track, some of which add more virtual obstacles. A lava theme features random bursts of lava bubbles on the track, while the 8-bit theme has goombas that patrol back and forth.

It looks like the best course designs will incorporate both these virtual features and real world obstacles.

You need coins to unlock features

Collecting coins while racing has one purpose here: coins are used to unlock key features. This includes some of the course customization options, as well as cosmetic upgrades for your runner. You can use coins to turn Super Mario into Builder Mario, for example, and have him drive around in construction equipment. However, the changes will obviously only impact the on-screen version of the game and not the physical kart.

The moments in play will have an impact on the IRL kart

One of the coolest things I saw was the way things on the screen impacted the RC kart. For example, when you use a mushroom to increase speed, you can see the little toy car accelerate IRL. When you are hit by a red shell, the kart comes to a complete stop. The best example I saw was a course with sandstorms, where the constant wind caused the rc car to move erratically when it was blowing.

There is still a grand prix mode, but it works differently

The traditional single-player grand prix mode returns to Domestic circuit, but it works a little differently. You control the basic layout of the course, while the game will overlay different themes and obstacles depending on which stage you are on. During my demo, I saw some pretty traditional themes like Underwater and Ice, and there’s even a Rainbow Road theme. What that does mean, however, is that you won’t see the same sort of wild, gravity-defying trails that Mario Kart 8 such a delight.

Battery life depends on speed

You will need to charge the karts, but the frequency depends on how fast you plan to run. Domestic circuit has four speeds: 50cc, 100cc, 150cc and 200cc. Nintendo says if you play on 150cc you should get around 90 minutes of battery life. But that number will increase if you play on the slower settings and decrease if you decide to go all the way to 200cc.

It should work well on a carpet

The videos shown so far mainly show the RC karts rolling on clean hardwood floors. But Nintendo says the game should perform just fine on rugs, although it can slow down a bit, especially if your rug is thicker. This could result in some interesting backyard designs, depending on your living room layout.

You can play in portable mode or on a TV

Domestic circuit Supports both the base Nintendo Switch and the portable-only Switch Lite. Both games will work in portable mode, but on a standard Switch you can also play on a TV. For multiplayer matches, this might add an interesting spectator view, like watching a very small NASCAR race.


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