Review by CHRISMC64

"The Wiil is your ticket to better Mario Kart"

News of Mario Kart Wii emerged at E3 '07 to the sound of no applause. If we had played the game back then, those business and journalist types would have known better. This game deserves much applause. More than any Mario Kart game to date.

The two big changes to Mario Kart Wii were the Wii Wheel (from now on Christened the Wiil) and motor bikes. So, what's the big deal? Do these two really make Mario Kart Wii better than Mario Kart DS? The answer is yes.

For a start the Wiil is the best way to control a Mario Kart game ever. Something as simple as putting the Wii Remote into a surprisingly robust plastic wheel just makes the game feel better to play. You get a real sense that you are controlling the kart (or bike) and when you lose control you really panic as you know it was your fault entirely.

But you rarely lose control after the first ten minutes as the Wiil, like nearly every other Wii control scheme, is so easy to get used to you wonder how we ever coped before. My only concern when approaching the Wiil was drifting but my worries were taken away very quickly. Drifting is done using the B button and then turning in the direction you want to drift (preferably around an upcoming corner). Getting mini-boosts can no longer be controlled by the player but instead is based on how long you hold a drift for and how tight the turn is. This eliminates snaking, something I did but must say hampered the game a little as it made it far too competitive for my liking.

The mini-boost is one of the few difference between karts and bikes. The kart has two levels of boost, the bike only has one. However, the bikes can be made to wheelie on straights, giving them an advantage here. The bikes (now that you mention them) are also harder to control because they turn much tighter than karts. They are still great fun to use and players will quickly decide whether they prefer karts or bikes.

The game also gives ample oppurtunity to try each out as 50cc is restricted to karts only and 100cc is restricted to bikes only with 150cc allowing both. This seems odd but it does mean none of the new features are left unused by players simply looking for Mario Kart DS on a big screen.

Speaking of Mario Kart DS, how many of your favourite MK DS tracks made it into MK Wii's Retro GPs? I'm going to guess 3 seeing as no one could have liked Yoshi Falls. But expect to see Delfino Square and two others along with 4 N64 tracks, 4 GCN tracks, 2 SNES tracks and 2 GBA tracks alongside 16 brand new tracks in the regular GPs. The retro tracks selected are mostly brilliant fun (I won't spoil which ones are there) but the game really shines on its new tracks.

All of the newer tracks have been designed with the game's new stunt system in mind. Performing stunts is easy as you simply flick the Wiil up and you get a stylish jump and a helpful boost. Stringing stunts together is great fun and really helps when you're falling behind.

Some new items help there too. The introduction of the POW Block (a devious device which hits all players except the user and makes them spin out unless they are in the air) and the Mega Mushroom (which makes you grow huge and squash opponents) really help mix things up. There is also a quirky new item I don't know the name of but it's a cloud of lightning which appears above the user's head, giving them a boost in speed. However, the longer you keep it, the more likely you are to be struck by it's lightning and so the idea is you pass it on by knocking into another racer so they get the lightning strike on them.

One thing I was itching to sink my teeth into was the online modes. I was greatly surprised by how smooth the whole process works. You start by connecting to 11 other players world wide and then compete in races or battles. If the players you joined are in a race already, you get to watch before joining in for the next one. All players then v a track, which is then selected at random so if 5 people out of 8 vote for Coconut Mall it doesn't mean it will be Coconut Mall, just increases the chance that it will be. Thus far, I have experienced no lag and players can leave and join all the time meaning disconnectors aren't a problem.

Have I left anything out? Well, there is the difficulty of 150cc mode were you will be struck by such a tirade of items you won't know if you just got red shelled or nuked but other than that this is Mario Kart's finest hour. Hurrah for this game and hurrah for the Wiil! Now hurry up and bring us a new F-Zero too!


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/16/08

Game Release: Mario Kart Wii (EU, 04/11/08)


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