Review by GoldenSilv3r

"Apes on Motorcycles? Count me in."

What happens when you cross a plumber and a go-kart? Not usually a recipe for a moneymaker, but that's exactly what Nintendo has managed with the six console Mario Kart games that have been released so far.

But what is this bizarre game, full of apes and babies driving? It's a driving game, obviously enough, but unlike your typical rally car simulator, this one doesn't take itself seriously. Expect to see many of Nintendo's well-known mascots (and some more obscure) driving through colourful and varied landscapes of beaches, tundras and even space, assaulting each other via weapons such as bombs, homing turtle shells and even lightning, somehow.

Fans familiar to the series will immediately recognize the karts, and probably anyone who has read the title of the game, too. However, new to Mario Kart Wii are bikes, giving two options to the drivers. While both types of vehicle are fundamentally the same at first glance, they have different strengths and weaknesses. Karts are generally heavier, and are able to receive bigger speed boosts from corners, while bikes can perform wheelies to gain a smaller speed boost along straights. Both are a decent choice, though the more hardcore fans will make fun of you for not using the good old kart.

Mario Kart Wii is certainly a flexible one with its controls; offering four different schemes to those having a habit of spending rather a lot on Nintendo peripherals. There is the Wiimote & Nunchuck combo, the Classic Controller, Gamecube Controller, and entirely new for this game - the Wii Wheel. It performs exactly as it sounds - slot the Wiimote into the Wii Wheel and you have yourself a makeshift wheel. While the control scheme can be harder to grasp, the novelty is admittedly tempting, even if it's really just a plastic case for your Wiimote to use.

As previously mentioned, this is the sixth of the series. How does Mario Kart Wii stack up to the rest? This version offers the most characters of the lot, twelve players per race rather than eight, and a superior online mode over that of the DS version. It's nicely put together, with a good connection speed and offering almost the same amount of features as an offline game. The typical races are included, with up to twelve players possible, as well as the ability to submit your personal bests for time trials against that of the entire world. There is also a battle mode included - a battle of two teams with players competing for the most score by the end of the round with two modes - either collecting the highest amount of coins, or popping their opponent's balloons by attacking with weapons in order to pick up points.

A novel concept of Mario Kart Wii has always been those items; the bane of many a player and cause of many arguments. These offer many different abilities, but most of the time, it will involve your opponents getting hit, knocked, rammed, shocked or fried. The closer the player is to twelfth place, the better items they will receive. Note that, unlike the Gamecube version Double Dash, this version does not offer special weapons unique to each character - all characters receive the same selection. There is, however, three new items that Mario Kart Wii brings along with it, making a grand total of nineteen. As fun as chucking bombs at Princess Peach and her nasal voice is, do note that items will often make or break the results of a race, and with the increase of players possible in a game, they are even more prevalent than any other Mario Kart. The single player mode can often be frustrating because of this - your best runs can and will be absolutely ruined by a last-lap bombardment of turtle shells happily gliding your way.

There is a grand total of thirty-two courses in this game, spread up over eight cups. Four of these are titled 'Retro' cups, and have tracks taken from previous games in the series, all the way back from the original Super Nintendo version. Some of these offer new shortcuts than before, due to the ability to pull off tricks in the air. There's no difficult method to doing them – just hit a single button and your character will do their own waggle in the air, and receive a speed boost upon landing. While these thirty-two don't seem quite so large when you consider the fact half of these are just recycled, nostalgia is hardly a bad thing, and some of the particularly older tracks have been entirely remade. You'll also find your console's Mii's running riot in some of the tracks, from appearing in coffee advertisements to driving around recklessly in cars, often leading to your own sad demise, caused by the Mii of a younger sibling, parent or even yourself.

With a couple of notable exceptions, Nintendo games aren't often known for their impressive graphics. Mario Kart Wii is not one of these exceptions. Expect to see bright, vivid use of attractive colours, but do not expect to see ground-breaking visuals which will blow your mind. It runs at a solid 60 frames per second; however, when three or more human players join an offline game, the frames will dip into 30. Not only this, but Grand Prix mode no longer offers a two player mode. It's a solo, computer-infested journey. Other than this, multiplayer offers the same amount of options as single player. Up to two people can even go online at the same time, on the same console.

Unlike the graphics, the music is some of Nintendo's best, from the classic, chirpy tunes of Luigi Circuit, to epic, Mario Galaxy-inspired Rainbow Road. The characters themselves have plenty of sound bites too, and simply just won't shut up; yapping, screaming and gloating their way across each track. It can even be irritating, especially when that one person keeps playing as a high-pitched, whiny baby character.

Keeping in with Nintendo's policy of party fun for all ages, this game has a nasty habit of rewarding those who play badly, and punishing those skilled. Online mode can be a bit of a random fare due to how the item system works, and computer players use a method of cheating, which simply makes them drive slower when they're in front, and faster when they're behind you. Mind, it isn't nearly as bad as the older Mario Kart games, but expect the harder cups to be difficult even if you happen to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the track and all the shortcuts. Thankfully, this option is fully customisable on multiplayer if this doesn't appeal - you are able to change items to be equally random for all positions, or turn them off completely. While this feature is lacking from the single player Grand Prix, Mario Kart is very much a multiplayer game, and doesn't try to dress itself up to fool you into thinking otherwise.

Hits
- Incredibly fun party game
- Well-made online mode

Misses
- Frustrating single player
- Not a huge step forward from Mario Kart DS

"Forget that - should I buy this game?"

If you have a Wii, there is no reason not to give this game a go. It's a great party game to those who enjoy racing or just competition in general. Even those who dislike driving games may want to give this a try - making fun of the guy you just bumped straight off the track into space never gets old.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/09/08, Updated 06/16/08

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


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