"A fine entry to the series, best played with the Wiimote and Nunchuk"

With every generation of consoles that come and go the Nintendo gamer can be assured a couple of things. There will always be a new Mario title that will push the boundaries of what to expect . There is also a slew of sport titles that feature of fat headed plumber and as to not break tradition, there will always be another Mario Kart. Mario Kart Wii marks the sixth installment in the expansive series that has always added fresh new incentives to bring you back. Mario Kart Wii is no exception to the rule.

The usual fair is to be expected in Mario Kart Wii. A Single Player mode will take you through 8 cups that feature 16 new tracks and 16 maps taken straight out of classic Mario Kart. This mode, called Grand Prix, has a new twist on it due to the inclusion of Bikes. 50cc, the slowest of the three speeds is dedicated to basic Kart racing, 100cc takes you on a spin with a dedication to the bikes and 150cc opens up the playing field to any vehicle of your choosing. The 16 new tracks are inspired greatly from past titles but different enough in there cosmetic design that you'll be picking out new favourites in no time. Instead of your normal fare of racing from start to finish while unleashing a flurry of items against your opponents the game introduces tricks that when executed give you a mini boost in speed. These are preformed by flicking the Wiimote upward just as you hit a half pipe or jump. It's simplistic in execution but adds a layer of depth that wasn't previously there. The other single player modes are Time Trial, a fan favourite, Vs mode where you can set the rules and Battle which has sadly been changed for the worse. Whether playing Battle Mode by yourself or with 11 people online the old rule set of everyone for themselves has been disposed of. It is now a Team battle royal in stages that are far to big for the players that want to play in groups of four. This seems like a missed opportunity for one of the most popular modes in the game. Fortunately it is remedied by Nintendo's online offerings and by the slew of unlockable content available through the Grand Prix Mode.

In a first for the series the racer count is extended to 12, both for single and multiplay. This results is both a blessing and a curse for the game. More opponents means more mayhem as red shells and banana peels are thrown about the track. It also multiplies the number of blue shells and lightning bolts that will be a detriment to the enjoyment of the game. Fortunately this minor inconvenience can be disregarded as you are allowed to play in regular sessions of 12 player matches on Wi-Fi that put any Mario Kart game from the past to shame. Other new additions to the formula are the previously mentioned motorbikes that give the player more choices and more options. While a Kart may have a slight speed increase the bike is much more maneuverable and includes a mini boost by doing a mono. The bullet bill and blooper make a most deserved return from Mario Kart DS and join bizarre new additions from the POW block to the Lightning Cloud to the overly powerful Super Shroom. All of this and an immensely enjoyable Wi-Fi component as well as the traditional offline 4 player experience makes for a pleasant combination.

There are sadly some disappointing shortcomings that come with this newest evolution in the series. Battle Mode is restricted to team matches and the balloon count no longer holds any importance. Instead the games are scored per the amount of hits against the other team. If you run out of balloons they simply reappear like nothing ever happened. 2 player Grand Prix has been disposed of and there is an apparent lack of Missions that were some considered would be a staple in the series after they were so well introduced in Mario Kart DS. To compensate everything you play in Single play carries a rating system with it. Grand Prix not only awards success but speed and ability to come first after every race. Time Trials are thrown into the universal circuit as you can challenge not only local records but Nintendo records and world records. After considering the eventual difficulty that arises with the 150cc mode due to unfair rubber banding many will find that obtaining the fabled three star ratings in each cup a grueling reason to keep playing the game.

The core multiplayer experience in Mario Kart Wii is surprisingly not with three other friends as is the case with Super Smash Brothers Brawl but rather by taking it online with Nintendo's Wi-Fi connection in what can only be considered a step forward for Nintendo's online future. Wi-Fi play is available to two players on the one Wii. Everything that you can imagine should be available online pretty well is. Races, check. Battles, check. Time Trails, check. Friend matches, check. Championships, well not exactly available just yet but we'll see where Nintendo are planning on taking that part of the game in the near future. Online is as easy as choosing a category, Worldwide, Continental or Friends and joining a match. Unlike Mario Kart: DS every track is available online and they look just as good. Communication is available with friends in the simplest of ways with a slew of phrases that can't exactly express your glee after beating your friends 10 times in a row. The game keeps track of your win/loss records against random players and friends and includes a Tetris DS style rating system that starts you with 5000 points and depending on your ladder position will detract or add points. At what was first thought to be a restriction placed on the games speed at 100cc this reviewer discovered that games will top the racing speed at 150cc. So not only are online matches intense they are extremely fast.

As is the tradition with Nintendo's Wii games, Mario Kart brings brand new control schemes to the table in interesting ways though some preform less than adequate considering they are intended focus on control. The game supports the Gamecube, the Wiimote, the Wiimote and Nunchuk and the newest addition to the controller peripheral family, the Wii Wheel. Don't kid yourself, the Wii Wheel is a glorified piece of round plastic that has no place in this game for the player that wants to actually have some fun. If you're a fan of weekend bouts of Wii Sports and you go to Singstar parties then the Wii Wheel is catered for you. Otherwise it is restrictive on the players maneuverability and does a very meager job at imitating the real thing. The Wiimote and nunchuk combination is the only to play this game and your not breaking any Wii experience rules because it is after-all the controller that was breed and made for the platform. The Gamecube controller is detrimental to the blaring reason you purchased this game and that was to experience a whole new era of Mario Kart, not the same damned thing from a generation ago.

Gamers recently got to lavish in the graphical magnificence that was Super Mario Galaxy. Minus a few bland textures and environments here and there Galaxy was the epiphany of Wii gaming and, hopefully, the future of Wii games. Sadly Mario Kart Wii seems to have suffered through a rushed production schedule or the developers just couldn't tie down sparkling visuals with 12 players on screen. The look of Mario Kart Wii is on par somewhat with Mario Kart: Double Dash but with an layer of colour and smoothness. The character models are depressingly on par with Mario Kart: DS but as is the case with any Kart game you'll be focused more on where you're going and not who you are. There are a number of diamonds in the rough as far as the graphical presentation of the tracks are concerned with a smoother and prettier Delfino Plaza from DS fame added to the mix and new additions like Koopa Cope and Bowser's Castle looking absolutely break taking. It would be unfair to judge the game cruelly on it's visuals regardless as we are all well aware of Nintendo's stance that graphics are not everything and that the Wii was never intended to push the boundaries of High Definition reality in gaming.

In the usual nostalgic package spun by Nintendo the music throughout the game is a series of remixes from old games and new tunes that are essentially inspired from pieces across the board. Rainbow Road still retains it's familiar and catchy tune but is inter-spliced with the DS version in a remix that is only consistent throughout this game. Character's will make their usually grunts and exaggerated celebrations that sound like they've been pulled out of the Mario Kart box of sounds. It is a little strange to hear Peach make a painful sigh however when she gets a boost but then again that would be what people in the industry call nit-picking. The soundtrack in the game is familiar but hardly memorable.

The Mario Kart series has taken a bold new direction with this sixth installment, whether for the better or worse is yet to be decided. After-all every Mario Kart game has brought something new to the mix and while not all persist through to the next generation I imagine more than a few from this one will become a staple in the series, from the addition of the bikes to the expanded racer count. Disregarding the painful A.I rubber-banding and the bizarre changes to the Battle Mode Mario Kart Wii is a solid product that once again holds firm Nintendo's philosophy that core gamer and non gamer can play nice.

Graphics 7
Gameplay 8
Sound 7
Value 10
Tilt 8

Overall Score: 8/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/28/08

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


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