Review by DKAA

"Disappointing at best."

I have been a fan of the Mario Kart series since the beginning: Super Mario Kart started off a hugely successful series with a simple idea: Characters from Mario Games got together, made some go-karts and raced each other over and over. And it was fun. Mario Kart 64 went further with the idea, making more character-based levels and adding in a couple of new characters. Skipping ahead a bit, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! combined the previous elements and introduced the idea of having 2 people in kart, and also had... More characters. On the DS, Mario Kart DS had a full map of the course on the bottom screen, allowing for better navigation and keeping an eye on your enemies. And now what has Mario Kart Wii given us? Well, now we can race 11 other people in a race, a breakaway from the traditional 8 (MK:DD may have had 16 people, but there were still only 8 spots per race). They've also introduced more characters... Some of which are rather questionable. Let's break this review into various sections and take a look at the crucial parts of the game, where it succeeds and where it fails.

First, I'm going to get the criticisms out of the way first. Starting with the gameplay. Gameplay in Mario Kart has always been the same: Race the others while attempting to catch up using offensive and defensive items, depending on your spot in the race, you'll get better items. In Mario Kart Wii, I'll say this: While in races, the gameplay is broken. Virtually every item you get hit with will drastically lower your speed (If not stop you in your tracks altogether), and the rate at which you will be hit with them is simply ridiculous. Coupled with the fact that the CPUs are constantly on your tail the whole race, slipping on a banana peel while in first will almost certainly put you down a couple of spots. But it seems like very few banana peels are actually gotten: Everyone in the lower levels of the race is treated to the luxury of Mushrooms, Bullet Bills, Red Shells, Stars, Lightning, and worst of all, the Spiny Shell.

Infamous to those who are veterans of Mario Kart, the Spiny Shell will automatically target the person in front, fly up to them, and then blow up while creating a huge explosion on the track that makes anyone driving through it spin out. Expect to see a lot of these things in your races (Assuming you can stay in first place), along with the other items. Now, in the Mario Kart series, you need good acceleration to recover from the onslaught of items. Mario Kart Wii says "Acceleration? Who needs it?". Even with a lightweight character (Known for having the best acceleration and recovery from items), you will have a hard time getting back to your top speed and catching up with the others. Something else to note: In Mario Kart DS, items were fairly broken because the karts had an Item stat, which gave them better items depending on how high the stat was. In Mario Kart Wii, there is no Item stat... So why the hell is the player subjected to so much punishment in the Grand Prixes?

Another new feature introduced is the usage of motorbikes, along with Karts. To start off with, there are 3 karts and 3 bikes for each weight division (Of course, the rest have to be unlocked... I'll get to that later). You're free to use either one in Time Trials, Versus and all that... But oddly, not all the Grand Prixes. 50cc only allows Karts, 100cc only allows bikes, and 150cc allows you to choose. Not much else to say here.

Oh, and there's drifting, of course. You can choose to have Auto drifting (Drifting that goes into effect whenever you turn) and Manual (Drifting that goes into effect when you hold the drift button and turn). You an achieve boosts in the Manual drifting by holding the drift for a certain amount of time. There are also Tricks and Wheelies... Tricks can be done with Karts when going off big jumps, and Wheelies can be done anytime with bikes, but you can't move much when the Wheelie is in effect.

Once again returning is the famous Battle mode. There are 2 modes: Balloon Battle (Which you win by hitting your opponents with items to make them lose their items) and Coin Runners (Get the most coins for your team before time runs out). Battle Mode in Mario Kart Wii just isn't as fun as it was in other games. You can't choose to have teams or be a free-for-all, and there's a time limit which reduces the last man standing feel. Like the Grand Prixes, there are some battle courses that are new, and some that are old ones brought back.

Like Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart Wii can be played with the Wii Remote, Wii Remote w/ Nunchuk, Classic Controller or GameCube controller. The Wii Remote with the Wii Wheel can probably take a bit of getting used to (Assuming you're going to use that method), especially when it gets to the later courses, what with all the sharp turns and stuff. It's much easier to use something with a control stick.

Enough of the gameplay (Yes, I know I haven't talked about online play... That's because I haven't been able to try it out). Let's take a look at the playable characters... What the hell was Nintendo thinking? You've got the classic ones, like Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Bowser, e.t.c... There's the more recent ones like Daisy, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, King Boo, Dry Bones, e.t.c... And then we have the plain bizarre choices. Baby Peach (From Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time), Baby Daisy (Never before seen), Dry Bowser (Bowser's skeleton from New Super Mario Bros.), Funky Kong (Donkey Kong series), Mii (Take a guess) and the one that baffled me most... Princess Rosalina, from Super Mario Galaxy. What is the point of trying to include more and more characters that haven't done anything in previous games?

And now we move on to the courses that you play on. There are 32 courses, divided into 8 cups: The "new" ones (Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, Star Cup, Special Cup) and the old ones " (Shell, Banana, Leaf and Lightning). I say "new" ones because not all of them are totally new, some are just old ones disguised. Moo Moo Meadows is similar to Moo Moo Farm from Mario Kart 64, and DK's Snowboard Cross is exactly the same as DK's Mountain from Mario Kart: Double Dash, only covered in snow and mirrored. The courses can serve just as annoying as the items, because there are plenty of places to go off-road or fall off the course, along with the obstacles to run into, all which will put you in a worse spot in the race.

But, Mario Kart Wii isn't all bad... There is some sunshine behind the clouds. The graphics are pretty good, the karts/bikes and courses are very well detailed, all looking like very lively. Rainbow Road in particular looks beautiful and flashy, though you probably don't have time to inspect the courses during races, you'll be focused on other stuff (I.e Being pummeled by the other racers). Similarly, the music for the courses is pretty good and fitting. Some of the character's voices are good, some are annoying, and some are just plain strange (Donkey Kong sounds like Scooby Doo).

In conclusion: Mario Kart Wii is good for a rental at most. Unless you're a huge fan of Mario games and instantly love every one that comes out, then you should not buy this game. Rent it first, and if you happen to like it, then you should buy it. Overall, though, the rubberband AI ruins Mario Kart Wii and it is just not fun to play.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 05/09/08

Game Release: Mario Kart Wii (AU, 04/24/08)


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