Smile, you’re on candid camera
Setting up Mario Kart Live is a relatively simple process. After downloading the free Switch app from the eShop, you simply point the kart’s camera at an on-screen QR code to pair it with the system over Wi-Fi (no external router or Internet connection needed). From that point on, you see an over-the-shoulder view from the kart’s camera on the Switch screen, though the kart itself is replaced on-screen with an animated version.
I have to say I was a bit disappointed by the quality of the on-screen image in my Mario Kart Live testing. While it’s hard to get a precise read on the resolution, my view of the real world looked a lot grainier and less defined than even a years-old smartphone video (not to mention the crystal-clear camera images shown in trailers and pre-release screen shots). Compression artifacts were prevalent, and the image would often shudder or jump as the Wi-Fi connection lost frames in the ether, causing more than a few unearned crashes.
These problems got worse as the kart got farther from the Switch itself or if a wall or piece of furniture blocked line-of-sight between the kart and the system. Even in the best of circumstances, though, I was never able to get the on-screen connection indicator to a full “four bars” of wireless connectivity. The game recommended I turn off other Wi-Fi products in the area to try to improve this, but I wasn’t about to shut down my wireless router (which other people were using at the time) just to play with a radio-controlled car.
Camera issues aside, Mario Kart Live‘s fantastical “augmentation” of reality is a bit hit or miss as well. On the plus side, the game makes setting up courses a quick and relatively painless process; just place the four included cardboard gates around the room, then drive through them in order to map out a track (Nintendo urges players not to race outside, though it’s technically possible). You can’t use any more or less than the four included gates, which can be a problem in especially large or small rooms, but not an insurmountable one.
You can make the path as straight or as curvy as you want in between gates, but the game doesn’t actually offer any penalty for driving off the course, as long as you make it through the gates. You’ll have to set up your own barriers with household items if you want to enforce your course guidelines, which is actually a big part of the fun, here.