Review by lsthmus

"I wish I could say it was great, but it's not."

Mario Kart has always been a great idea from its start on the SNES. The first and second games on the SNES were something I had never seen before, and I was surprised in a good way. Everyone loves Mario (?), and what would be a better way to compete in the Mario World than Kart racing? Next came Nintendo 64's Mario Kart 64 and the GBA's Mario Kart: Super Circuit, both satisfying games for their time, introducing more characters and more complex tracks. Afterwards, Double Dash for the GCN appeared, possibly my least favourite game in the series. I wasn't sure why I disliked it so, but something about it turned off the fun. Finally, my favorite game of the series appeared: Mario Kart DS. Almost everything about the game was perfect, from the wide selection of characters to the many new karts and the inclusion of retro stages for that extra nostalgia for older players. Not to mention, the game introduced Wi-fi racing, so you're almost never bored. This game's flaw?

Snaking.

Now, Mario Kart Wii appeared which seemed certain to patch up everything Mario Kart DS and some. However, I cannot say it did so. Snaking (which if you didn't know is drifting constantly even when not taking turns) has become pretty useless now. However, there is one problem in the Wii version of Mario Kart which is quite hard to overcome, and easily distinguishes the good from the bad, and the experienced from the inexperienced. However, I will reach this topic later. Mario Kart Wii has three major flaws which corrupted the fun factor of the game (one of them being the aforementioned snaking equivalent). First, let's praise Mario Kart Wii as we review everything great it has done for the Mario Kart series.

First off, the graphics are a step above every game before. Of course, this isn't much of a surprise from what we've seen the Wii is capable of, from games such as Super Mario Galaxy or Super Smash Bros. Brawl. But, it really is worth mentioning, just incase a potential buyer was frightened of another NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams' graphic turnout. Next, the music is another great step up in the Mario Kart series. I believe most tracks have their own selected music for it, and the music ranges from the nostalgic Bowser's Castle to the melodic Maple Treeway. Karts are well balanced, as usual; you can go fast with low handling, slow with strict handling, or somewhere in the middle. One of my favourite parts of Mario Kart Wii is the wide variety of stages. From the simple, retro courses to the newer and much more difficult courses like Rainbow Road or Maple Treeway...okay, I'll admit Maple Treeway is far and away my favourite course :). Back to business, however, the final plus for Mario Kart Wii is Wi-Fi racing. Multiplayer is what gives this game replayability, and with the addition of tournaments and up to 12 players racing at once, this is probably where the game shines most. Without Wi-Fi, this game would honestly be a huge disappointment and an even lower score.

"Wait," you ask. "How can you praise so much, yet give this game a 5/10? What more is there to critique?" Honestly, there is not much more to critique. However, it seems the developers have equalized the good with the bad in the game by leaving three horrible mistakes in the game. No, they're not quite glitches, but in my opinion something much worse. First, let's start off with the least severe of them; Infrared reception. For those who are familiar with the Wii Sports unofficial add-ons to the Wii Remote, like the Tennis Racket or Golf Club, the makers of these devices failed to realise that the Wii Remote could not send its Infrared rays to the sensor, rendering the add-ons useless. Now, I'm sure the developers of the Wii Wheel spent nothing less than a great deal of time on making sure everything worked smoothly, mainly the Infrared waves getting through to the sensor bar. And, in essence, they succeeded. By itself, the Wii Wheel can easily let the Wii Remote do what it needs to do without blocking anything. However, another obstacle seems to have slipped right by Nintendo; your left hand. Imagine, 150cc on the lowest handling bike, on Rainbow Road, final lap. Every one is rushing by you, and for an average player you are holding your own surprisingly well. However, one mistake and you'll be in 12th place, losing the Gold Trophy opportunity (By the way, this will also lead to another major flaw in the game). Now, on the final boost to the finish line, you move slightly to the right to prevent you from flying straight off, when you notice that your bike is moving not right, but left, directly off the stage. You just lost the gold right there, and now you have to complete the cup over again. To be honest. This is my situation. The flaw occurs when you really think; the last thing you will be thinking about in the last heated second of this race is where your hand is. Your hand naturally moves to the sides; grabbing too high or too low just doesn't work. There are many more examples where this can occur, which proves the first small, yet fatal error of Mario Kart Wii: "Improper Infrared".

Now, the second error occurs in that same example. However, for more proof, we will look at a different example that shows how even the best player, who made no mistakes in that race, winds up in twelfth. Let's look at DS's Yoshi Falls; the amazing player made no mistakes on 150cc and is cruising to victory. Suddenly, he is bombed with a Blue Shell. After falling back down, he is immediately hit with two red shells, one right after another. Now, he went from First place to Twelfth place, only because of the second fatal flaw: "Annoying AI". This mistake actually comes in two pieces. First is the most obvious, items come way to fast and at very inconvenient times. This worst part is when you can't dodge them. For example, after being hit by a Blue Spiky shell, you can't block the red shells that follow. Another situation I've found is when you are knocked off the edge of a course somehow, you land on a slanted piece of the track where a Bullet Bill just happened to come screaming by as soon as you became vulnerable, knocking you off the edge yet again. The less obvious piece to this flaw, however, is how close together the AI is. In the DS Mario Kart, the separation was nailed, especially in the 150cc/Mirror modes. When you got hit by a spiky shell, the furthest back you would fall was 5th place, which is quite easy to recover from. In Mario Kart Wii, however, this is not the case. One hit could possibly put you in last, even with the inclusion of twelve players. This is just not welcome when you worked so hard to get in first place in the first place (No pun intended).

Now we move on the final fatal flaw, which I mentioned in the beginnings of this review. The third fatal flaw is called "The Unfair Advantage". For those who view Mario Kart Wii as a fun pickup Wi-Fi game, and remaining as an average player was fine because winning wasn't necessarily your main goal, this is where disappointment kicks in. This is the honest truth: if you can't master the top speed bikes, you lost wi-fi. In all honestly, the kart is no where close to as good as the bikes. These can make faster, tighter turns, pull wheelies in tight races for the edge, and overall rule the game. When you master the top-speed bike completely, you can see the difference. This is basically the equivalent of snaking in Mario Kart DS; you won't play casual and have fun, because everyone else is destroying you with their bikes. This leaves only two choices: become addicted, play every day with the bikes to get better, and win but lose your real destination of casual, pick-up-and-play fun; or just keep losing, which you may view as fun (if you're insane /cough) but honestly is quite frustrating. Now, this is not to say the players who mastered the bikes shouldn't continue to show what they can do, because there is nothing improper or illegal about this strategy. Unfortunately, the casual player lost his interest and left Wi-Fi for good. Does something seem wrong? And although, for an equal race, the player could look for the friend codes of players matching his own skill, there is no way he will always have a friend online to play with. By far, I view this as the most fatal flaw.

See what I meant by the bad matching the good? Three simple, preventable flaws ruined the game, an unfortunate occurrence. /And motion control was supposed to be so goood.../ Mario Kart Wii had everything going for it; the Wii Wheel, the 12-player Wi-fi, and not to mention all the publicity; however, in the end it didn't execute as it could've. Mario Kart Wii is not shallow, nor is it very deep. If you can gather four friends and race all night, you'll be set. But when you can't, you'll find that you simply can't enjoy this as a casual game. I really, really, REALLY wish this game was great.

But it was barely good.

3.5/10, rounded up to 4/10.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 05/16/08

Game Release: Mario Kart Wii (US, 04/27/08)


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