Review by XRaurosX
"Starts out fun, ends up incredibly frustrating."
Now, reading the tagline might make you feel like this game isn't worth playing. I wouldn't quite say that: if you love Mario Kart, then you will undoubtedly still love this game. However, there are a few key flaws that can really detract from the experience and make it hard to enjoy.
Mario Kart has been around since the SNES. While some may feel the formula has gotten stale, the series is still incredibly popular and is one of the better party experiences. To me, the series reached its peak with Mario Kart: Double Dash on the Gamecube. The graphics were great, the soundtrack was as fun and whimsical as ever, and the game play was incredible. Simply adding a second person to each kart may not seem like much, but the teamwork involved, the satisfaction of winning races, and getting at each other's throats for mistakes added to the experience and made it one of my favorite games of all time.
I had high expectations for Mario Kart Wii. Partly because of Double Dash, but also because I had owned a Wii for a while and the lack of quality games had made me sour towards Nintendo's latest console. Due to that, Mario Kart Wii was a day one purchase for me.
To start, Mario Kart Wii is a slight improvement over Double Dash graphically. Naturally, considering the Wii isn't too much more powerful than the Gamecube. The character models and the difference courses all look nice, though some of the graphical effects of the items failed to impress. As always, the music is fun, light, and stays true to their respective courses.
The game play itself is where the fun, and the frustration, enter. There are several different control schemes: the Wii Mote, the Wii Mote with the wheel that comes with the game, the Classic controller, and the Gamecube controller. Having tried all the schemes, I can safely say the GCN controller is the easiest and least frustrating to use. In that particular case, everything works very well. The Classic controller is also good, though not quite as solid.
The frustration kicks in with the motion controllers, and especially if you insert the Wii Mote into the wheel. The controls technically work, but feel sloppy at times, and too often you feel like you're on ice skates as you try to stay control on the track. Is it impossible to play that way? Not at all, but things certainly feel more solid with the GCN controller or Classic controller.
The game play itself is typical Mario Kart fare. Battle items are still the name of the game, with a new addition in the POW block, which will make all the other carts spin out. A neat addition is the ability to draft, or stay directly behind an opponent for a period of time and getting a speed boost to zip right past them (and I'll admit I've said "Slingshot, engaged!". Gotta love Talladega Nights).
My problem with the game is that, more than ever before, races come down to luck rather than skill. It's not uncommon to be hit by a combination of blue shell, red shell, POW block or lightning bolt within the span of a few seconds and go from first place to nearly last. More than anything, this is where the frustration is involved.
Besides that, there's still fun to be had. The addition of bikes, a first for the series, is a nice touch, though they don't control too much differently from the regular carts. Multiplayer is still an absolute blast with friends, though not quite as fun as Double Dash. I have not tried the online play, though I've heard relatively positive things about it.
Overall, this isn't the strongest outing from Nintendo in the Mario Kart series. It's still fun, but the formula has definitely gotten a little stale, and the touches to the game play in some areas, particularly with the emphasis on luck over skill, hurt Mario Kart Wii. But it's still a worthy addition to any library for the multiplayer alone.
Graphics: 7/10. Nice looking, but not a big improvement from Double Dash. Characters look good, courses look nice, but battle items are only okay.
Sound: 8/10. The usual fun, lighthearted music we've all come to love, and the characters all make their usual sounds to make all but the most heartless person smile.
Controls: 10/10 Gamecube controller, 8/10 Classic controller, 6/10 Wii Mote, 3/10 Wii Mote + wheel. Stick with either of the first two controllers, trust me.
Game play: 7/10. Too much emphasis on luck over skill. Otherwise, it's still Mario Kart, and it's still fun. Playing with friends is still a blast.
Replayability: 8/10. It's still a great party game, and it's an easy game for anyone to pick up and immediately enjoy.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/17/12
Game Release: Mario Kart Wii (US, 04/27/08)
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