Review by shezamiah

"In retrospect: Mario Kart Wii"

Mario Kart Wii is the supposed next-gen karting experience that we've all been waiting for. Like many Wii games, Mario Kart Wii pushes artistic over technical design. The game looks nice and runs at a fluid 60 fps. Unfortunately, when playing with 3-4 people on one console, the game drops to 30 fps. Whilst there's nothing intrinsically ‘bad' or ‘wrong' with the graphics it is disappointing that it's not a noticeable step up from the Gamecube's Mario Kart Double Dash.

The sound is typical Mario Kart. Not much to say here. Most music is fitting but forgettable, but there are a couple of catchy themes hidden behind the screeching of tires and yelping of characters.

In some ways a step forward but in others a step back, Mario Kart Wii changes and introduces gameplay mechanics. Snaking (the ability to string together powerslides) has been removed. Players can now choose between automatic and manual, though most players will settle into manual. Motorbikes have been introduced to the series. They don't get as much of a boost around corners as karts when performing powerslides but they can do wheelies to gain a speed boost on straights. Both karts and motorbikes can perform mid-air stunts and tricks to gain a boost. These aside, gameplay is typical Mario Kart: very fun.

Before I move on however, I'm compelled to mention the 24 characters that there are to choose from. 24 sounds like a lot but I found the selection to be disappointing. Characters such as Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Peach, Baby Daisy, Dry Bones and Dry Bowser are filler: I think its time that Nintendo thought outside of the box (like they did for Super Smash Bros. from the get-go) and include characters from other series. Link! Samus! Fox! Granted, Funky Kong and Rosalina are refreshing but Mario Kart Wii fails to push the series in new and exciting directions. And if the idea of a circuit through Hyrule causes bile to rise in your throat…remember: it's a game! Otherwise, Nintendo should push deeper into the mythos of the Mario series: why not Cranky Kong, Fawful, Jr. Troopa, King K. Rool, Krusha or even Lord Crump?

The tracks themselves are great. There's a good mix of old and new with 16 new and 16 old (but repackaged for a newer look and, to some extent, feel). The new tracks are very good but some of the old ones are a bit suspect. Case in point: Peach Beach. Surely there were other tracks that Nintendo could have chosen from Mario Kart Double Dash…oh well. It seems that Nintendo are keeping a few good ones available for future Mario Karts (that's strange…I didn't realize that using old tracks prevents them from being used AGAIN in the future). Huff I say.

Grand prix is back. The only catch: 50cc is karts only, 100cc is motorbikes only and 150cc is both karts and motorbikes. There are now 12 racers per race (as apposed to 8) making the gameplay more hectic. To compensate, an icon shows you the location of certain in-play items, players can check behind them at the click of a button and tracks are generally wider. The AI verges on being rubber band in 150cc, but winning is by no means a no-skill, pure luck endeavour (bad drivers always argue this).

One of the reasons that I like the Mario Kart series is that there's always a chance of winning from last place thanks to its items. All the old favourites are back, plus some new ones. Call them what you will – blue shells, spiked shells, spiny shells – but they are still as annoying as ever: it's disappointing that there's no item editing system whereby you can edit each and every item (specifically for multiplayer).

Speaking of which, multiplayer is a blast – especially online. There's hardly any lag! I'm not covering the online in much (read: any) depth (check the other reviews) however, as my gig is primarily offline. My one major gripe is that there's no free for all battle mode option. Indeed. More options in general (such as the aforementioned item editing) would have been nice.

Back to single player.

I feel that Mario Kart Wii has taken a step back from Mario Kart DS, as there's no mission mode. Mission mode was a fun deviation from the typical grand prix fair that had a lot of promise on the handheld system. Unfortunately, it – for some unearthly reason – has been ditched!

It's here that I'll summarize my basic view of the game: Mario Kart Wii is an incredibly fun game for the whole family (and great at parties!) but aside from a few small additions (e.g. motorbikes) and online play, it doesn't do anything that's particularly exciting. The innovations of Mario Kart Double Dash and Mario Kart DS are thrown out the window for less exciting ‘innovs'…I can't call them innovations because, well, they aren't. Fortunately, the experience remains ridiculously entertaining and my brief excursions with online play have somewhat made up for the game's drawbacks. A must buy for Wii owners, unless you are content with a previous iteration of the series (in that case give it a rental first).

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/24/08

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

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