Review by Halladay32

"A Rejuvenating Installment in the Mario Kart Series"

As a long-time fan of the Mario Kart series, I am disappointed to say that while this game takes a giant step forward in the franchise, it also takes a few steps backward from the best aspects of the past few games. However, this is still a great game that does the series proud and that also breathes new life into the Mario Kart franchise.

The best part about this game is the online. Seeing as how this game is clearly oriented towards multiplayer gameplay (being a racing game and all), the online provides a lag-free option in which to compete in hectic races with other people around the globe at any time. Once you get started, there is also minimal loading times between races. You aren't just restricted to competing in races online; you can chose to play in Battle Mode online as well. The online capabilities also allow the ability to download other people's ghosts for certain tracks, allowing you to race against them and attempt to best their times. This is a great feature that really improves and revitalizes the Time Trial mode. On top of all that, there are also online tournaments to compete in. These add another dimension to the game, even though they can sometimes feel a bit boring.

The single player portion of this game, as well as some of the changes made to the main components of this game, is where this game runs into some trouble. The single player section consists of Grand Prix, Time Trial, Versus and Battle Modes. For anyone who has played the DS installment in the series, you'll notice that one mode is missing: Missions. For me, this is a great pain because this mode really increased the Single Player experience of the series by providing fun and intuitive challenges to complete. One could argue that the tournaments have simply replaced them, but I cannot help but feel a little saddened they were left out. Maybe I'm just crazy. The Grand Prix Mode and Vs. Mode are basically identical to what they were in the previous games in the series. In Vs., you race against CPUs or friends on whichever track you chose. In Grand Prix, you compete in a set of four tracks and earn points based on your placement for each individual race. There are three different difficulties available. Unfortunately, the highest one is virtually unplayable due to the increased barrage of devastating items that will assault you if you are near the front of the pack. This is one huge problem with the game. The outcomes of the races (in every mode and difficulty, yet definitely more noticeable in 150cc) seem more luck-based because of the high number of drivers available now per race (twelve) and the fact that there are way too many overpowered items available to the players doing poorly. While the items provide everyone with a chance to win, it does tend to get quite annoying in Grand Prix mode when you make no faults of your own, yet finish in third or fourth.

However, the madness caused by the items is definitely welcome in Battle Mode. Especially considering that the options for this mode are severely lacking and somewhat ridiculous compared to earlier Mario Karts. This mode forces you to compete in teams, which is infuriating when you are paired with incompetent CPUs. There were times when I had twice as many points as anyone else, yet still lost because my team couldn't muster any. There are numerous stages to chose from and most are quite enjoyable, yet they are a little too big for their own good. Also, I cannot help but pine for my beloved Block Fort which was left out of this installment :( . This mode does provide a great mix of new and retro battle arenas however, which is a cool concept that they once again incorporated into the racing section.

There are 32 racing tracks in total. The retro courses apparently do not age very well as they can sometimes feel bland, but the majority of the new courses are brilliantly designed and a blast to play. The visuals in this game are relatively well done; my only real complaint is the character models on the character select screen which can look quite atrocious. The tracks look amazing; the retro stages have even been redone with improved graphics. The music is nothing special and does not have as many memorable tunes as in previous installments. There are no bad tunes though, and some like the Rainbow Road song are great.

One welcome new addition to the series is the Wii wheel. If you are used to playing Mario Kart games with a controller, don't fret; if you cannot get used to the Wii wheel, you can still use a Gamecube controller that has, I believe, the exact same control scheme. I personally found the technique of manually drifting around corners to be too difficult to perfect with the Wii wheel. Aside from that, it was very responsive, not to difficult to learn, and really quite enjoyable. I also know some people who are outstanding with the wheel. It is definitely an amazing addition that brings some new variety to the series. The game also implements the ability to perform tricks by either pressing a button or flicking the Wii wheel while going over jumps. Originally, I didn't care for this technique; however, it does increase the depth of this game once you get the hang of it (which doesn't take that long). Motorbikes have also been added to the game in addition to karts. Similar to the tricks, they may appear useless and stupid at first, yet the ability to perform wheelies to increase the speed of your bike down straight stretches of road adds a new dimension to the game. The choice of vehicles in this game is very impressive as there are, I believe, 18 different karts and 18 different motorbikes. You will definitely find one that will be perfect to your tastes and racing style.

As you can see, there are many reasons (mainly the online and the continued use of the perfect racing genre of all the Mario Kart games) why this game is a stellar addition to anyone's Wii collection. There are unfortunately a few changes that was made to the core gameplay and the battle mode that I cannot overlook. Overall, I would definitely recommend this for anyone with a Wii with an online connection, or anyone who plays games with friends quite often. If you are looking for a great single-player experience, or if you hate racing games, this game is not for you. While this installment doesn't have the outstanding tracks and great Battle and Mission modes of Mario Kart DS, with the elimination of the “snaking” technique, the online is much more balanced and much more enjoyable.

Overall, I would give Mario Kart Wii an 8/10.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/23/08

Game Release: Mario Kart Wii (w/ Racing Wheel) (US, 04/27/08)

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