Ride or die.
Mario Kart 8’s second piece of DLC came out in late April, and now that I’ve had a chance to digest it fully, I can say that it is wonderful. It includes eight new tracks, three new characters, a few new vehicles, and…uh, right, a brand-new speed—200 cc—that will have you braking for the first time in the entire series. It’s quite an upgrade.
Let’s talk about the new tracks first.
Baby Park—the secret Best Mario Kart Track —makes a return from Double Dash. The entire course is played with your gravity wheels, so bumping opponents to get little boosts is encouraged. The beauty of Baby Park is that it’s ridiculously simple but once you get enough shells, banana peels, and other hazards littering the road, it becomes pure chaos. The winner isn’t necessarily the fastest player as the luckiest player. The track’s been given a carnival backdrop and it’s magical. I love Baby Park.
Cheese Land has been brought forward from the Mario Kart Advance. Now that it’s in HD and 3D, it’s completely unrecognizable. That might be a good thing. This is a track with lots of sharp turns and a few Chain Chomps for good measure. The little craters dotting the track give nice trick-boost opportunities.
Neo Bowser City comes to us from Mario Kart 7, and aside from the HD paintjob, it’s basically the same. This is a fun, winding course but the narrow roadway makes item management a priority. The rain effects are particularly impressive here. Believe it or not, Ribbon Road is also from Mario Kart Advance, although the way it’s structured is completely different. This is my favorite of the new courses. The winding, twisty road (with a nice shortcut) and toy aesthetic make it easy to love. The wind-up Mechakoopas are a fun touch as well.
Big Blue is another famous track from F-Zero. I remain convinced that F-Zero is just going to be folded into the Mario Kart series. Big Blue is not for the faint of heart with tough turns and plenty of ramps. I like the layout of Big Blue more than Mute City, but they’re both excellent. The music in Big Blue—a brass-heavy remix of the F-Zero tune—is maybe the best musical track in the entire game.
Wild Woods is this game’s version of Dragon Driftway. It’s a woodland theme this time, but there are lots of turns, boosts, and ramps to keep things interesting. Of the original tracks in this DLC pack, Wild Woods is my favorite.
Super Bell Subway has some interesting ideas. It’s a fairly straightforward course but you have to watch out for subway trains. You can get off the beaten path along narrow “shortcuts,” but they are risky in a densely populated race.
Finally, the anticipated Animal Crossing track changes based on the season, which is pretty cool. It’s not a particularly noteworthy track otherwise (although your coins become “Bell” coins) although it’s very pretty. You can drive around on it with the game’s new characters.
Speaking of new characters, there are three. One is the generic Villager (who has multiple skins), another is Isabelle, your secretary in New Leaf. Finally, there’s Dry Bowser, who was ridiculously hard to unlock in Mario Kart Wii. I didn’t find the vehicle options to be that memorable, but they will doubtlessly give number-crunching meta-game players some things to tinker with.
But it’s the surprise 200cc mode that’s got these onlookers spectatin’. With the most recent patch, players who hadn’t won gold in 150cc can also join the heart-stopping fun. With this speed, opponent’s items are actually the least of your concerns—merely staying on the track becomes your primary motivation. You will find yourself suddenly favoring vehicles that offer high handling ratings and can turn sharply. You’ll learn how to use your vehicle’s brake and you won’t be able to drift around every single turn. To be fair, the CPU seems to also be having some trouble with this faster speed, as the courses were not really designed with 200cc in mind. Even something as milquetoast as Moo Moo Meadows becomes a whole new course at this faster speed.
200cc performs shockingly well online, although I feel like I’m having more dropped games overall than I had prior to the 2nd DLC wave. I will say that racing online in 200cc makes me feel a little better about myself as I watch other human players go through the exact same struggles I am. This second DLC pack is great—better than the first—and I highly recommend it.