Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

When we were first introduced to the concept of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit last month it seemed like one of the smartest implementations of “augmented reality” we’d ever heard of. A remote-controlled Mario Kart with a camera that lets you view your home as a virtual racetrack on your Switch? What could go wrong?

After about a week with Mario Kart Live in my house (complete with an avid six-year-old co-tester), I found a lot of imaginative fun in the novelty of this “real world” Mario Kart. However, once the novelty wore off, the realities and annoyances of this particular “real-world” implementation made me wonder how much long-term appeal the idea has.

Smile, you’re on the candid camera

Setting up Mario Kart Live is a relatively simple process. After downloading the free Switch app from the eShop, point the kart’s camera at a QR code on the screen to pair it with the system via WiFi (no external router or internet connection required). From then on, you’ll see an over-the-shoulder view of the kart’s camera on the Switch screen, although the kart itself is replaced on-screen with an animated version.

I must say that I was a little disappointed with the quality of the image on the screen in my Mario Kart Live to test. While it’s hard to read the resolution exactly, my view of the real world looked much grainier and less defined than even year-old smartphone video (not to mention the crystal-clear camera images shown in trailers and pre-release screenshots). Compression artifacts were common, and the image would often shake or jump as the Wi-Fi connection lost frames over the air, causing more than a few undeserved crashes.

These problems got worse as the kart moved further away from the Switch itself or if a wall or piece of furniture blocked the line of sight between the kart and the system. However, even in the best of circumstances, I’d never been able to get the on-screen connection indicator down to full “four bars” wireless connectivity. The game recommended turning off other Wi-Fi products in the area to improve this, but I had no intention of turning off my wireless router (which other people were using at the time) to work with a radio-controlled car.

Reality magnification

Camera issues aside, Mario Kart LiveThe fantastic “magnification” of reality is also a bit hit and miss. On the plus side, the game makes setting up courses a quick and relatively painless process; just place the four provided cardboard gates around the room, then drive through them to map out a track (Nintendo urges players not to race outside, although it’s technically possible). You can’t use more or less than the four ports provided, which can be a problem in rooms especially large or small, but not insurmountable.

You can make the path between the gates as straight or as twisty as you want, but the game actually offers no penalty for leaving the track as long as you get through the gates. You’ll have to set up your own household supplies barriers if you want to enforce your course guidelines, which is actually a big part of the fun here.

By akfire1

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