Review by neonreaper
"Despite online play and new features, Mario Kart Wii isn't as fun as other Mario Kart games."
Mario Kart Wii was one of the major selling points of the Wii for me and my friends. Growing up, we all grew to love the time spent in front of the various Mario Kart games. It was a series anyone could play - if you were with someone who just wasn't very good at games, there was always 2P Grand Prix on 50cc. If you were with your dork friends and wanted to challenge yourselves at 150cc, you could do that. There were also battle modes, which weren't terribly deep but provided an easy way to play versus your friends.
The online mode in Mario Kart Wii let us finally get together and play the game, which was what we'd been looking for since most of us have grown up a bit and moved away. What sort of kills this, is the lack of voice chat. If you've ever hung out with friends, or on a college dorm, or at some party and Mario Kart comes out, there's definitely a big social aspect because of how accessible the game is. And sure, in every setting there's the one guy who doesn't talk much and wins every race, but I was hoping the game's online mode wouldn't be geared for kids who need a kid-safe environment and the quiet guy who just wants to joylessly steamroll the competition.
The online mode does have a nice set of stats for your friends. It also has a nice bit of voting for tracks, a good way of keeping score, and it's pretty fun unless you want a legitimate social aspect to the game. It's also a lot better to play a variety of people than deal with the sub-par A.I. the game has.
Playing against the computer just isn't much fun. The A.I. can be cheap and annoying, but doesn't balance it out with any real bits of fun quirks. Add to this the excessive amount of items that bog the race down, and you're kinda stuck dealing with POW blocks and squids and blue shells and bullets and giant racers and lightning bolts every lap, from every angle. First place spends most of the race just dealing with the crap thrown at him, second place doesn't get any good items, but the racers behind them deal with a wild assortment of crazy item tossing. It's not unfair, it's just bad and really detracts from the fun. I don't mind the casual nature of items and I don't mind losing because I was hit by a well-timed item or even a barrage of random items, but the implementation of items in Mario Kart Wii just detracts from the game.
The amount of tracks, racers and karts in the game is solid. I think that the new tracks are a bit lacking compared to previous games, but the amount of new and old tracks keeps you from getting totally bored of tracks unless you keep choosing the same ones.
The graphics and sounds are fine, typical Mario Kart fare that is easy to identify and enjoy.
The controls are a bit updated in some ways. You have a new way of boosting compared to MKDS. You have tricks you can do on ramps with the new bike vehicles. You have the Wii Wheel controller, which just isn't that great even after you solve the steep learning curve. I understand they have to devote a lot of focus on the Wii remote gimmick, but I would have preferred that focus go elsewhere. But these updates don't seem like they really add a whole lot to the fun of the game.
All that said, it's still Mario Kart and it's still easy to pick up, play and enjoy. Especially if you have someone in the room with you, or at a low-key party people fire it up after a few drinks and everyone's laughing and having a good time. I just think they had a lot of potential this generation to make the best game in the Mario Kart console lineup, and I think they made the worst to date (though it is still a good game).
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 10/30/08
Game Release: Mario Kart Wii (w/ Racing Wheel) (US, 04/27/08)
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