Review by Kamikaze_Kenny
Who gave these people driving licences anyway?
It's fair to say that Mario is on his way to taking on EA all on his own. I mean, look at the amount of franchises the short, fat plumber has - RPGs, football (sorry, I mean soccer), basketball, baseball, dancing, party, pinball... in fact, the two that he's any good at, platforming and racing, barely get seen at all beneath the utter amount of dross.
In any case, here we have one of the latter games that Mario's good at and doesn't come about once every fortnight - the latest Mario Kart on the Wii. Now I understand America hasn't got this yet, and to be quite honest I couldn't be happier. We in Europe have to wait bloody ages for your shoddy seconds so you can at least wait a piddly little fortnight.
Back to Mario Kart, and this is the sixth version for home consoles, or the eighth version overall if you count the arcade games. You could well understand if some people were to automatically say "oh but wait, I've played Mario Kart games before and they're all the same, and this will be as well".
And you'd be right.
Now, for those of you out there who live in caves with hermits and still think Tetris on the GameBoy is the future, Mario Kart is a racing game in which the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom take to the roads (or factories, giant trees and Bowser's Evil Castle Of Certain Doom) to race against each other, all the while using comical power-ups that seem ever-so-easy to use when the enemies are using them repeatedly to drop you from first place to eleventh. The courses have their fair share of shortcuts, plummets into nothingness or little gadgets or hazards such as conveyor belts to make you go faster, cows walking across the road and so on.
And that's about it. It's the same as it's always been, minus having a second rider in the GameCube version that I initially thought would be brilliant and a strategic advantage, but in the end made me wonder if Nintendo's designers had phoned in ill that day and the only person left was the work experience boy.
New to this version though is the bikes - a cosmetic change which does very little in the game. Bikes are easier to knock but can do wheelies to make them go faster and don't seem to be able to do red sparks when drifting. That's about it.
Also new to this version, and probably the biggest thing about this game, is the steering wheel. When hearing about this I thought this thing would be a flimsy little steering wheel, the type of which is found on kid's toy cars, is made of red plastic and is only just larger than a jam jar's lid. Fortunately it's actually a sturdy accessory, and I actually really enjoy using it. The buttons are *mostly* in the right place and only occasionally does it not pick up what you are doing, instead leaving you to hurtle into the nearest chasm.
Drifting in the game is as easy as it's ever been, with a minor caveat - you have to ensure you set it to "manual". I didn't realise this at first and trundled around the track like a radio controlled car, the computer promising to "drift for me" before taking the day off. Put it in manual however and a press of the drift button makes you jump, before landing back on the track and beginning the drift. Wrestling with the controller to keep a good drift line and steer around obstacles is a joy here, even more so if you're using the wheel (this is where it really shines), and then keeping the drift up (no snaking here thank God) to produce the tell-tale sparks that signify a speed boost when you come out of it.
Also present and new to this iteration of Mario Kart are stunts. Initially sounding rubbish, they in fact become a key element to keeping up a good speed. Again using the wheel, a pull forward or back on the controller when jumping off a ramp gives you a little stunt animation, and when coming back down a speed boost. This is necessary online as, let's face it, everyone else does it. If you don't, you're screwed.
Online from the DS version makes a comeback, and is practically the same apart from allowing twelve players in a single match. A quick pop online gave me 5000 points and two people to race against - both of which ALWAYS picked Yoshi Falls from the DS, and beat me down to 4800 points. Once other players started coming in and Yoshi Falls didn't appear all the time I started to get some wins, taking me to just over 5000. Happy that I'd turned a profit I packed it in for the night.
Twelve players though - Mario Kart is more hectic than it's ever been. Some people may complain that, in order to do this, Nintendo have had to make the courses wider - not something I've spotted, and not something I'm too bothered about. However, it can get annoying that the other racers in 1-player target you so much - when you're about to get first place it can frequently hit you with everything under the sun and set you back practically to last (in my case it was 10th).
Overall though, this is probably the definitive version of Mario Kart. However, if I do have a major gripe I would have to say that I don't like the hardware. No, not the wheel. Not even the Wii. After the fantastic DS version, I don't like having to sit down and play it on the TV. It's not portable - but then it was never meant to be. But I guess, because of this, I believe the DS version to be the superior one.
Even so, this IS Mario Kart. Everything that made Mario Kart great is here, and nothing more.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Mario Kart Wii (EU, 04/11/08)
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