'Mario Kart 8'

From: Nintendo

Rated: E

Who's it for: Anyone who ever dreamed of chasing Bowser and throwing a shell in his face

Console: Wii U

Grade: A-

The last time Mario and the gang sped by, they did so on the 3DS. And even though the diminutive handheld's screen looks great, it's still just a handheld.

That changes May 30, when the series speeds back onto the big screens, where it really shines, especially now that the game is in full and glorious high-definition.

At first blush, "Mario Kart 8" doesn't break any new ground. Mario and the other denizens from the Mushroom Kingdom get together and race across a series of fantastical tracks. Half the tracks are new; the other half are remastered favorites from earlier Mario Kart games.

As before, races are presented in series of four. Players receive points dependent upon how they finish each race, and whoever has the most points at the end of the series wins. That makes it so a player doesn't necessarily have to win every race (although there is special recognition for doing so), as long as he finishes well enough overall to collect the most points.

At the start of each series, you also can choose a race class — 50cc, 100cc or 150cc — character, kart, wheels and wings. Along with the standard kart, you can race on a motorbike or even an ATV.

As with "Mario Kart 7," your kart automatically will change into a hang glider when you catch enough air, or a submarine when racing under water. Nothing can stop these guys!

However, these are all features we've come to expect from "Mario Kart." Longtime fans are surely asking, "But what's new?"

For them, Nintendo has added one of the coolest twists ever seen in a racing game — antigravity.

Driving over certain glowing stripes triggers a transformation in your kart, bringing the wheels off the ground, and kicks on the antigravity motor, allowing the kart to cling to the track as it twists and turns sideways, upside down and more.

At first, this topsy-turvy racing might take you somewhat aback, but it quickly becomes second nature, as you'll be paying more attention to your rivals than anything else.

And nothing beats the feeling of speeding off a looping ramp, deploying your wing, flipping right-side-up and sailing to the next point on the track. It might defy physics, but even Sheldon Cooper couldn't resist its wacky level of fun.

The only place the game falls a little short is with its rubber-band style of keeping races close. As one race was starting, I got a phone call and forgot to hit pause. It was a very quick phone call, but I still started the race 30-40 seconds after everyone else took off. It didn't matter, though, because I still managed to come in first.

While most of the characters and power-ups will be familiar to "Mario Kart" veterans, Nintendo wouldn't disappoint those looking for something new.

Joining the roster this time around are the Koopalings, those notorious mini-bosses from the Super Mario games. Iggy, Roy, Lemmy, Larry, Wendy, Morton and my personal fave, Ludwig, are all unlockable for your racing pleasure.

As for power-ups, the best new additions are the Piranha Plant, which hangs off your kart and chomps down on your rivals, and the Crazy 8, which actually gives you eight power-ups you can launch one at a time for an amazing string of awesome.

Unfortunately, the unavoidable blue Spiny Shell also returns, sure to appear and knock you for a loop at exactly the wrong time.

Finally, there's a full complement of game modes sure to keep you busy for months. In addition to the main Grand Prix mode, you also can choose from Battle Mode, VS Mode, Time Trial and Mirror Mode.

Both local and online multiplayer are available, which adds even more reason to hone your skills.

Nintendo once again has proved it makes the best games for its systems. The Wii U has struggled from its launch, even though exclusive games such as "Super Mario 3D World" and "Pikmin 3" have provided fans with great incentive to pick one up.

"Mario Kart 8" adds to the growing stack of amazing Wii U exclusives and shows this system might just make it yet.