Review by umbratile
It's not the best Mario Kart, but it's still very fun
The newest console from Nintendo has been here for a while, and about now they've really started getting their online stuff to work. Cue Mario Kart.
What's new this time? Well, let's start with the bikes. Mario Kart has always been about...well, karts. However, the whole two-per-kart thing from Double Dash!! has been ditched in Mario Kart Wii, so in order to keep the game from becoming way too basic and unoriginal, this version introduces motorcycles. They are, however, pretty much exactly like karts, but with the added bonus of being able to perform wheelies for speed bonuses (but they are balanced out by being worse in other areas). I think the bikes are a good addition. It's a nice change, and while I personally prefer karts, it's a new experience that makes this 'Kart stand out.
Another new thing is the Wii Wheel, a steering wheel that comes with the game. For free, even! Pop your Wii Remote into a Wii Wheel, and...well, nothing happens, really, as far as gameplay goes. The wheel may seem pointless to you as all it does is add size and weight to the controller, but it works very well, and it's a lot of fun to play with. If you don't like the Wii Wheel (and if you don't, the Wii is not the right console for you), you can also play with the Classic Controller, the Wii Remote and a Nunchuk as well as the GameCube controller (the latter of which has a hilariously bad button layout that seems to have been designed by someone's mom).
Like all other Mario Kart games, MKWii offers many fun modes. The single player mode, though, is weak this time. This time there is a Grand Prix, Time Trials, VS Race and Battle Mode. Nope, no Mission mode - that is a disappointment, as it was very fun in Mario Kart DS. Battle Mode still has the old Balloon Battle, but this time it's entirely team based and you only lose a point if you lose all of your balloons. There is also a mode where you collect coins... Time Trials and VS Race are what you'd expect - racing against the time, and doing a quick race with computers, respectively.
Now, Grand Prix is a little different. You've still got the 50cc, 100cc and 150cc classes, as well as the Mirror mode, which you must unlock. However, in 50cc, you can only race with karts and in 100cc you can only drive bikes (it's free-for-all in 150cc) until you have cleared all cups in the class once. It may sound good on paper, but it's no fun going through the grand prix with your least favourite type of vehicle, trust me.
The single player modes are, really, all ok, but there is one giant flaw that makes that mode so much less fun to play. Somehow, Nintendo has managed to create the worst computer controlled opponents to EVER appear in a Mario Kart game. The rubber-band effect (CPU players get faster to catch up to you) is huge, they seem to gain items from thin air, you will disturbingly often lose a race because you were attacked with lightning bolts, POW Blocks (a new item...that makes you spin out), Bloopers, star-powered opponents and so on, usually in the last lap. In short: if you lose a race in single player, you'll usually have a feeling that there's too much luck involved, which is very, very sad.
At least the online mode fixes all of this. Your human opponents have no rubber-band effect or ability to bombard you at the exact same time in the last lap, so it's all good, clean fun there. The online mode supports up to 12 players in regular, random matchmaking (you even get to see their names, which is surprising considering it's Nintendo's online we're talking about), and that is really amazing. It's great fun to be able to jump online and play against 11 other humans!
The tracks in this game are so-so. There are 16 new, which is a decent number, that's boosted by 16 classic tracks as well. Some new tracks feel a little dull, but most of them are fun, and chances are you'll fall in love with tracks such as the maple tree-themed Maple Treeway, and a lot of other fun courses. The classics could be better, though, and the fact that there are three Bowser's Castle tracks, for example, is a little odd.
This is not the best Mario Kart, because of the single player that is absolutely no fun. However, the game does have spectacular online, and many of the tracks are some of the best in Mario Kart history (some of them are some of the worst too, though...). It's a very enjoyable game, but do not get it if you can't play the online, or at the very least have anyone to play it with regularly.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Mario Kart Wii (EU, 04/11/08)
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