Review by 777Avalanche777

"If you have any love for Mario Kart, it deserves a home in your Wii."

With a new console out, it was inevitable that we would see a new edition of Mario Kart from Nintendo. Of course, this isn't a bad thing- it's always been a fan favourite, and quite rightly. Most people coming to Mario Kart Wii will be quite familiar with the formula- for that reason, I shall be reviewing this in comparison to the other games in the series, mostly recently Double Dash and the DS version.

Starting with the newest additions, with have the Wii wheel. Plastered all over the box art, Nintendo seem quite intent on marketing it as one of the main reasons to buy the game. I was cynical at first, but the wheel isn't all that bad. I was surprised by how responsive it was when I first used it, and it didn't take long to get used to it. It's definitely not going to replace the gamecube pad as the standard controller, but it's a fun novelty for a while. The only real annoyance I have with it is how the box art only shows Mario and Luigi holding the wheel- it definitely feels a bit lacking, compared to the nice red cases Double Dash came in.

Another newcomer to the series is the ability to choose between bikes and karts. It seems a bit gimmicky at first, and it takes a few races to get used to, but the bikes are actually one of the best things about the game. The subtle differences in handling and slightly different abilities of the two vehicles provide a balanced choice, with no one giving a clear advantage over the other.

One of the best aspects of the game is the online mode. Mario Kart DS, as Nintendo's first venture into the territory of online gaming, felt like the online was tacked on as a watered down version of the local multiplayer. Mario Kart Wii sorts out all the problems from the DS version completely. There are very few load times when waiting to join a game, unlike the DS version, where five minute waits to start a two person game were not unheard of. Within a minute on the Wii you can be in a twelve player game, which you will remain in for the rest of your online session. On the DS, it was common to start a game with two or three people, only for everyone to drop out on the second race and leave you to set up another game. The wii version does away with the Grand Prix style series of four races, in favour of single races which affect your rank. Also, the absence of snaking (an advanced technique commonly argued over in the DS version) makes the races feel much fairer, and reduces the number of disconnects.

There are some problems, though. Overall, the tracks feel a little bland sometimes. There are some excellent additions, such as Maple Treeway, but many of the courses feel slightly like discarded ideas from Double Dash. Most of the new tracks have the same sunny feel that tracks like Peach Beach do, and they often begin to feel repetitive. The retro tracks actually feel much more interesting than the new ones, in particular the N64 choices.

Furthermore, the single player experience feels slightly orchestrated at times. It's a Mario Kart tradition to be hit by a barrage of blue shells once you get near the finish line, but it seems particularly obvious that the AI ‘cheats' in this edition. You'll rarely get hit by just one item- it's common to be hit by a lighting bolt, and then a perfectly timed red shell, or a red shell and then a blue shell soon after. It's clear that this is included to hinder the driver in first place, to make matches more exciting, and just feels contrived sometimes. The online mode doesn't have this problem as much, and getting blasted by a real player's blue shell never feels as cheap as a computer player's does.

Overall, Mario Kart Wii is well worth your money, if you have any love for Mario Kart. There's a lot to unlock, with 24 characters overall, and it's a great multiplayer game. It doesn't revolutionise the Mario Kart franchise, but it's well worth having it in any Wii collection.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/14/08

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

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