Mario Kart Wii Review
Author: Darryn King
Monday, 12 May 2008
Mario’s always been a bit of a video games slut. As far back as 1992 he was whoring himself out in Mario Paint, Mario Is Missing! and Mario’s Time Machine – but Super Mario Kart, which also came out that year, was much more than a fleeting one-night stand. It was the beginning of a beautiful romance that continues today with Mario Kart Wii.
Except for the slightly distracting fling with tag-team racing in Double Dash, Nintendo have never strayed too much from the winning Mario Kart formula of colourful characters, chaotic starts, unpredictably loopy tracks and ridiculous items.
Mario Kart Wii ups the ante slightly.
There are now 12 racers, with many more to choose from once you’ve unlocked them, with their own selection of vehicles (motorbikes!) that vary in handling and speed. There’s also a bunch of new items that can turn first place into twelfth, or vice versa, in a flash… One second you’re being chauffeured to the finish line by a Bullet Bill, the Mushroom Kingdom equivalent of a deus ex machina – the next, you’re totally robbed of victory by a blue shell or some other ghastly thing. Say what you will about random elements getting in the way of fair gameplay, Mario Kart evens the playing field like no other racing game.
As well as by using the boosters already littering the tracks at every turn, racers can now perform stunts or tailgate other racers for spurts of speed – but, as usual with Mario Kart, sometimes you’ll have to be content with not hurtling into oblivion (Wario’s Gold Mine), being bogged down in snow (DK Summit) or being flattened by a passing lorry (Moonview Highway).
Guitar Hero players have had to take their Wiimotes in and out of their guitar controllers to load the game – but Nintendo have put a little more thought into the Wii Wheel, and there is no such problem here. Generally you can count on Nintendo when it comes to innovative game controls, and the motion sensing Wii Wheel doesn’t disappoint. It’s a much more satisfying way to perform stunts or wheelies, for a start. It’s just that the alternative control schemes (the standard Wiimote/Nunchuk combo, the Wii Classic Controller, or the GameCube controller) prove to be slightly more comfortable for regular play.
Still, if you’re getting together for some Karting action with a bunch of friends, it’s only right you bust out the steering wheels for the genuine arcade experience.
Speaking of the multiplayer experience, it’s slightly different this time around. Instead of the traditional Grand Prix mode, you choose the four tracks yourself – it’s a feature probably devised with the best of intentions, but it’s maybe a little too generous to give players the option of skipping their least favourite tracks. As for the Battle modes, the stages are truly inspired and varied – some of the best in the series in fact – but players are now relegated to Blue or Red teams made up of several AI karts. Gone is the thrill of the hunt, unfortunately.
The Wi-Fi mode of the game though, by all reports, makes up for these shortcomings. Apart from international bragging rights and the ability to blitz someone on the other side of the world with a spiky blue shell, playing against 11 human Karters eliminates some of the more pesky AI contrivances.
All in all, Mario Kart Wii may not be a speed-boosted leap forward for the franchise but, as usual, there’s more than enough to enjoy here.