Review by Blue Blob

"One of the best installments of the series...but it's lacking something!"

~Mario Kart Wii~

So, we're well into a year of the Wii's lifespan, and with the console going from strength to strength (sales wise at least) there seems to be no obstacles in the road for Nintendo's motion-sensing behemoth. As is tradition for Nintendo, a Mario Kart has finally arrived - and is one of the Nintendo franchises that can truly benefit from the Wii's quirky control scheme. Well, for those patient enough to get past the 20-minute learning curve...

...so without further ado, let's dive in!

Gameplay - again, the standard redefined.

Nintendo aren't exactly known for drastic franchise overhauls since, say the N64 days when everything was revamped for the 3D era (remember playing Mario 64 for the first time?). Mario Kart has followed the same traditions since the SNES original - Mario and friends (as well as enemies!) get together in go-karts and race around various circuits based on typical Mario locations.

What made SMK stand out from previous racers was the fact that you could bombard your rivals with weapons, ranging from Koopa shells to banana peels to lightning bolts. Coupled with tight controls and multi-player gameplay, the Mario Kart series was destined to be a constant hit on every console it's been released on.

Mario Kart Wii does nothing different, but adds a lot more! An amazingly easy-to-use and fun Online mode is now available, and like with the DS iteration there are now double the normal amount of tracks due to a plundering of past Mario Karts, offering 16 original courses and 16 'retro' courses from the past games. Mario Kart Wii might not be doing anything new, but the series honestly isn't known for being refreshing.

The game feels tighter and more focused than Double Dash (the gamecube installment, released in 2003), with the silly dual-character gimmick gone and the inclusion of a bigger variety of vehicles, including bikes. If anything, it feels like a console update of Mario Kart DS, which probably had the best gameplay of the truly '3D' Mario Karts.

But whilst all these additions are good, you can't help but feel that, after 5 or so previous installments, Mario Kart Wii is a bit lacking. An adventure mode, where you can roam around free in your kart as you please, completing races and doing tasks (much like with critically acclaimed MK 'clones' Diddy Kong Racing and Crash Team Racing), would be extremely welcome. Mario Kart DS also featured a mission mode and boss fights, which are also missing from this game. All in all though, the tighter gameplay and online more than makes up for this.

Graphics - nothing to shout about, sadly!

The courses look great, there's no denying that. However, the character models are mostly pulled from a 5-year old Gamecube game, and after playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Galaxy, you can't help but feel somewhat disappointed on the graphics front. It just seems very lazy, especially after seeing what other companies have been able to do with the Wii's limited graphical capabilities.

Sound - "WHOOOOOOOOHOOOOO!"

Mario and friends truly never shut up. Ever. Nearly absolutely everything in this game is accompanied by a sound bite of your character going "WHHOOOOPEEE!" and "I'm the WEENER!". Which adds comedy value but gets annoying. The music is functional Mario Kart, and to be honest there hasn't been a good Mario Kart soundtrack since Super Circuit in 2002, so yeah. Nothing to write home about here.

Characters - BABY DAISY!?

Mario Kart Wii offers the biggest selection yet of Mario's crazy friends and enemies. Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Yoshi, DK and other veterans are accompanied by...Rosalina? Funky Kong? BABY DAISY? It may seem like Nintendo are scraping the bottom of the barrel, but play any Mario RPG title and you'll find a whole universe of characters that have been criminally ignored when it comes to Mario's 'party' games. At least the essentials are still here, and Dry Bones made it in from MKDS, which is awesome. He was my fave, man.

Multiplayer - Yes.

Truly, this is where the game shines. It's where Mario Kart has always been at its best - you're a fool if you don't intend to play this game with friends. It's just so immensely chaotic and fun to get three mates in a room and race each other well into the night. Which of course often includes ridiculous amounts of swearing and controller throwing as you get blasted by another blue shell. But that's what Mario Kart is all about!

Honestly, the replay value will wear thin after a few weeks if you don't have any friends around to play this with - but with them, comes a game that will last you absolutely ages. There are a few annoying things (you can't have a multiplayer Grand Prix now, sadly, and for some reason there are only 'Team' matches in Battle Mode), but otherwise this is some great stuff.

Controls - Wiiii.

So finally, we land at Mario Kart Wii's biggest addition to the series (well, the Wii hardware's contribution to the series anyway). The game comes with a plastic 'Wii Wheel', designed to emulate the old racing wheels you could buy for the consoles of the last two generations. Despite taking a while to get used to (I dived straight into the time trials and had some trouble at first), you'll quickly be having a blast with this thing if you learn how to use it right. It's mostly about balance and not acting like a hyperactive kid when turning it (it's very sensitive).

Judging by the large amounts of people playing online with the wheel, it's a genuine success. Thankfully, for those who don't want to adjust to the new control scheme, Nintendo have given you several other options (gamecube pad, Wii mote and nunchuck, classic controller) to play the game with. Great stuff.

Pros and Cons - we're nearing the end, so here's the good and the bad! And the possibly ugly.

Pros:
+ Probably the best Mario Kart yet?
+ Tight, refined controls.
+ Great selection of characters.
+ Good variety of courses.
+ Wii Wheel is genuinely a good piece of kit.
+ Fantastic online.
+ AMAZING multiplayer.

Cons:
- Graphics and sound are nothing special.
- Lacking some modes that, as 'Mario Kart 6', it should generally have by now.
- After finishing all the cups, time trial is all that awaits the lonely gamer.
- BABY DAISY!?

All in all, despite some faults, Mario Kart Wii is a solid addition to your Wii collection, and I've honestly had more fun with it than say, Super Smash Bros. Brawl.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/12/08

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


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