Review by Quilavatrainer

"Outstanding for casuals, somewhat disappointing for verterans, but addicting nonetheless"

Mario Kart has been a popular and accessible series since the SNES. Mario Kart now comes to Wii with the cleverly-named Mario Kart Wii.

If you've played any Mario Kart game or any racing game in general, you know the goal is to come in first place after three laps around the track. That hasn't changed here.

There are some big additions to this game that separates it from past titles. The first being is that there is now 12 players in a race instead of just 8. This means more competition.

You can now ride bikes instead of karts if you choose. The bikes control the same way as the karts but with one advantage. Players can pull wheelies on the bikes to catch more speed, but it's a little harder to steer.

There's also plenty of ramps and hills that racers jump off of and perform tricks in mid air. When they land, they gain a speed boost. The tricks are easy to perform and the animations are smooth and nice to look at. While most of the ramps are in the middle of the course, some pull you away which leaves you to decide if it's worth it to risk getting passed by other players in order to perform a trick for a small speed boost.

The power slide has also been changed. Before, you would get a power boost by making sharp turns and holding in place as you tilt the control stick left and right. It gave advanced players an edge. But now, the amount of boost you get is determined simply by how long you hold it. This means that edge advanced players had no longer exists since newcomers can pull it off too.

There's a total of 32 tracks in the game. 16 are from old Mario Kart games, while the other 16 are new.

There are some new items in the game, that will frustrate you just like a Smash Ball in Brawl. The new items include a thunder cloud, a squid, bullet bill, giant mushroom, and pow block. The lightning cloud is by far the worst item in the game. Regardless of your current position in the race, you have a chance at getting this item. You'll get a speed boost from it, but the cloud will shrink you if you don't bump into someone to pass it along. Be warned that they can pass it back. But why Nintendo would put in an item that hurts the user is beyond me and was very foolish in my opinion. The squid squirts ink in the view of all the other players so they can't see, but using a mushroom or speed ramp will clear it away. The bullet bill will rocket you back up to the crowd of racers if you fall behind and getting hit by it will send you hurdling to the side. the giant mushroom will allow you to become huge and run over players and obstacles. The star is better since your are still vulnerable to the bullet bill when huge. The pow block will cause all the other players to spin out but can be avoided in mid air.

In Single Player mode, you can compete in the Grand Prix where you compete in a series of 4 tracks in order to win a trophy. You score points based on what place you finish in. First place will score you more points than coming in 6th obviously. It can get repetitive to have to complete each cup on 50, 100, 150 cc and Mirror mode. This has been a minor problem that all the games in the series face and it hardly makes any effort to change that here. Completing each cup will earn you secret content such as hidden characters and vehicles.

Time Trial returns, which allows you to race around the track in an attempt to get your best possible time. This mode is more interesting this time around because now you can race against ghosts from the Nintendo staff. You can also send and download ghost data over Nintendo wi fi connection. Time Trial mode is now more enjoyable with the addition of staff ghosts from the Nintendo crew to race against.

There's also a free run and battle mode where you can race or battle against computer players. The difference this time is that you can now divide into teams and the points you score after finishing races will be combined together. The team with the most total points wins. This is a nice addition as it helps struggling novice players and it's good that items your teammates use don't effect you.

Single Player mode has a little more depth, but the Grand Prix is still repetitive.

You can race or battle against up to three friends. You can set up a cup of four tracks to race on and you earn points after each race. The player with the most points wins. Team mode is also available. The game is more fun and at the same time more hectic when more players are added.

It's a good thing there's wi fi in this game. You can play against up to 11 other players from around the world, players in your country, or your friends you've registered via the infamous friend codes.

Each player has a VR or Versus Record. It's a 4 digit number of points. When you do well in races, you earn more points, while losing races will subtract from this number. This is a nice way to track your progress, but it doesn't serve any purpose. There are no rewards or achievements to unlock by accumulating a certain record.

When you sign on, you pick either worldwide or regional, pick a character and wait to find other players. It's much faster and smoother than Brawl's match-making. When you join a race, you'll usually arrive right in the middle of another race so you'll have to wait for the race to end before you can join in. The amount of time you wait is determined by how far into the race the racers are when you join. It's never too long of a wait. After you join, you select a course and wait for the others to make their selection. Then a course is randomly chosen. If there are 12 racers in a race, then you have a small chance of your track being chosen so it's best to be ready for anything.

When you play against registered friends, you create a room and wait for them to join. You can have up to 12 racers in a room. There are several pre-made messages you can use to communicate with the players. It's an improvement, but voice chat would be even better. This room system of communication is not available when racing against random players, which is understandable because everyone is so eager to just race.

Battle Mode is now entirely team based. This means it doesn't matter if you lose your balloons. It takes the fun out of it without having the need to survive. Battle mode is a lot less engaging this time around. Which means you'll have to stick with races for serious competitions.

A word of caution. When you create a save file on Mario Kart Wii, you attach a Mii to it so you can play as that Mii in the game. When you go on w ifi, this mii is used to represent you. All the other players can see this mii as well as its name. So if the mii you choose has your real name, other players can see it. So to protect personal information, you may want to rename your mii on the mii channel.

The wi fi is a major improvement from Brawl. It's extremely smooth with virtually no lag at all or random disconnects. Players can't drop out in the middle of a race so you don't have to worry about the game ending just because one player leaves. The game is definitely worth picking up for the wi fi.

There's a Mario Kart Wii channel you can save to your wii menu. On the channel, you can download Time Trial ghosts, view times and records of your friends or players around the world. There are also numerous tournaments you can compete in. Your records in the tournament can be posted on a leader board so you can compare your scores with your friends. This channel is a nice addition because it adds a lot of replay value.

The music in Mario Kart Wii is nothing spectacular. You've got some quirky Mario tunes and while the ending credits theme is nice, there's nothing majorly memorable.

The sound effects are average. The voice samples of the characters give plenty of personality to the characters, but can get annoying after a while.

Similar to Brawl, you can use a variety of control schemes. The biggest attraction is the Wii Wheel. You snap the Wii Remote into it and it becomes a steering wheel. It works well and is a lot of fun to use. For steering around the track, it gets the job done. But if you want to get good with it, it'll take some practice. But if you want to get serious, you can use the Gamecube controller or Wii Remote and Nunchuk.

The graphics are decent. While the new courses are fun with a lot more colors and effects, the older tracks seem bland. The DS, GBA, and SNES courses are a lot bigger now and made nice transitions, but the Gamecube and N64 tracks look hardly any different. The characters have a lot more animation thanks to the tricks, but on the character select screen, they look the exact same from Mario Kart Double Dash. The game itself is bright and colorful, but isn't very detailed.

There is one major problem with this game. Because Nintendo has made this game more casual-friendly and with the change to 12 racers, there's a serious problem here with the AI. The state of invincibility you used to have after being hit by an item is no longer here. This means you'll get mercilessly slammed by one item after another. Now it's possible to get hit with a blue shell, a red shell, and get bumped off the edge of the track ALL WITHIN ONE MOMENT. This problem occurs in all modes and it can get it can get even more difficult on line since players are adjusting to it and will show you no mercy. Races are entirely dependent on luck, instead of skill. It's very frustrating to come in first one race, and tenth the next. Or to stay in the lead for the majority of a race, only to get hit by a barrage of items and come in last, right before the finish line. This was clearly designed to give poor players a chance, but even they will think this is an issue. Hardcore players and casual players alike will be frustrated by this. But if you can put up with it, the game is still highly enjoyable.

Mario Kart Wii is a very addicting and fun game. Casual players will adore the game, but hardcore veterans might be disappointed. While the on line is the best the wii has currently, the item AI issues are bad enough to turn one away from playing it. Mario Kart Wii is a game that Wii owners should own or at least give a try.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/23/09

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

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