If Nintendo won’t bring Mario Kart to PC, well, we’ll have to make our own. No PC kart racer I’ve played has come close to Nintendo’s joy and Mario Cars 2: 64, well, Mario Cars 2 is shooting for a very different feeling. Less a kart racer than a kick of existential dread, it sees Mario, Peach, Sonic and the gang reflecting on death, dying, dying over and over, and longing to stay dead. And it’s a mite silly, as if I needed to point that out. It is funny and free too, so c’mon c’mon.
Mario Cars 2 is slow and awkward to control with tracks that drag on and on. It doesn’t even matter if you finish first or not. It is deliberately hostile to players to set up the gag. Its racers – Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Pikachu – are confused, lost, and tired. Their charmingly ugly portraits chat between races, going through the motions, wondering why they keep racing, and wishing for it all to end. Sonic is a man in a crude costume obsessed with Eggman and emeralds, Pikachu’s a chilled-out fatalist with a head like a dog skull, and Mario’s sure this next race will cheer everyone up.
“What if video game characters were aware?” is an old class of gag, and one I often find awful. But I cackled at Mario Cars 2, sympathising after slogging through those awful races. The game is funny, and it is pretty, and the silly music is pleasant (play as Sonic and you’ll have a real treat on one level).
Mario Cars 2 was made by Chelsea ‘Pixelatedcrown’ Saunders in about a week with a few others chipping in. No, you don’t need to have played the first Mario Cars to get it. I recommend following her Tumblr as she’s always working on something interesting in her ace low-poly untextured style. I’ve been especially keen to see cooking game The Chef’s Special and doll’s house game In the Witch’s House.
Anyway, here’s Saunders playing through Mario Cars 2: