Ahh – Mario Kart. Who could forget one of the most memorable karting games that was ever produced on a home console with the introduction of Super Mario Kart back in the heydays of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System? Everyone was enthralled by a new gaming genre that captured the imagination, offering more thrills and spills than were available at Nurburgring. Being in the lead is often a short lived event, where your opponent could quickly sneak up behind you with a trio of the dreaded Red Koopa Shells while you try your best to avoid banana peels that were liberally littered all over by opponents whom you have long passed. Brando, the house of gadgetry and toys from Hong Kong, is currently offering the rechargeable R/C Mini Mario Kart Advance Set that comprises of Yoshi & Mario, translating virtual kart action into a real world environment.
Unboxing both Mario and Yoshi was a pleasure, as both karts share basically the same performance specifications quite unlike the video game where Mario was the more balanced character. Each set comes with a Green Koopa Shell, a Red Koopa Shell, a Mushroom, and five banana peels along with the remote control, the kart itself, and a set of peel-out boxes for you to re-enact a thrilling race across any smooth surface. Instructions included were in Japanese, so with my non-existent Japanese skills, I could not make out how one is supposed to play the game proper. It involves the basics of every Mario Kart game, where you are supposed to run through boxes of question marks that are filled with random goodies.
The remote control itself is powered by a couple of AA batteries. Opening the battery cover is quite a chore as you are required to use a Philips screwdriver instead of the usual “pry it open” style. Once the batteries are in place, all you need to do is to place the kart on the remote control itself and wait for the red LED to turn off, signifying the kart is fully charged with two minutes’ worth of power under the hood. You can pull up the antenna for maximum reception, and there is a wind-up mechanism that makes it easy to retract the antenna back in place after play. Tomy is a toy manufacturer that certainly looks into details that often go unnoticed – the remote controls follow the color scheme of the character, where Yoshi’s controls are plastered in white, green, and red while rotund Mario’s emblazoned in his trademark red and yellow.
Controls were nimble and tight, so there was no question of having any difficulty when picking this game up. With a 6-way movement that comes with each kart, kids will definitely have a swell time driving them around. It would make a great gift idea for parents who have a set of twins or a couple of kids at home who have not yet hit the “I want the latest console” age, especially with the holiday season just around the corner. A set of both Mario and Yoshi would set you back by $43.50, but that is small change compared to a brand new console with a virtually unending supply of games and peripherals. Individual karts go for $22.50 a pop so it makes perfect sense to get a set instead. After all, you can’t really have any fun running a single kart around the home.
There was a bonus idea included where the set up consists of a small table, both Mario and Yoshi karts, and a pair of goalposts on either end of the pitch. In the middle lay a Koopa shell, where players try to use the kart to knock the Koopa shell into the opposition’s goalpost. I found this the most fun and makes a great game for both kids and adults (with a little bit of alcohol thrown in for good measure – you definitely won’t need a breathalyzer for this one!). Yoshi runs on the 45MHz band while Mario is slightly higher up at 57MHz, so you won’t suffer from any cross signals whatsoever.
You really can’t go wrong with the rechargeable R/C Mini Mario Kart Advance Set as a stocking stuffer, but be prepared to see them collect dust after a couple of weeks’ of play (or even shorter). You have no idea how fast kids get bored these days, as their imagination seem to run dry pretty fast no thanks to this instant world we live in. Make sure you know who you’re getting these for before picking them up. Otherwise, the money plonked down offers pretty good value for money, and hey – living out the Mario Kart lifestyle is definitely something fun!