Has it really been fifteen years since I played the original Super Mario Kart game on the SNES? Well unless I’m a time lord (which I’m not) then the answer is very probably yes. Mario Kart Wii is the sixth game in the series (excluding the Namco arcade versions) and after 15 years of experience you would think Nintendo should be the perfect guys to create one kick ass karting game.
Mario Kart Wii is a fun but surprisingly deep racer, it might be full of colourful characters and whacky tracks but look deeper into its core and you’ll see realise that there is much more at work here.
Karts and the brand new Bikes come in many different sizes and performance levels, will you choose a small, nimble but slower vehicle or go for a fast but heavy and tricky to control mammoth of a machine? Both Karts and Bikes handle differently too, the karts can drive easily around corners and also achieve a mini corner turbo to minimize speed loss, the bikes can’t do that but to make up for it can do a nice big wheelie on the straight giving them a nice bit of extra speed.
Trick or treat…Another new addition to the series is the ability to drive up special ramps at the sides of certain tracks, if you do this correctly your character and vehicle will flip around and upon landing they will get a nice boost of speed. Not only that but you’ll also be looking out for any other ramps you can spot in the game which can also be used as take off’s for performing tricks, these not only look spectacular but also happen to give you a speed boost when you hit the ground, never before have Mario Kart tracks felt so three dimensional.
Mario Kart for the Wii isn’t all love and cuteness though, things can and do get nasty, if you want quiet Sunday morning driving you’ll have to go elsewhere (Brighton for example), Mario Kart Wii is full to the brim with weapons of mass destruction but thankfully no oil for George W Bush to start an invasion over (yes I can do political jokes too). You have the usual three types of shell to shoot, red which home in on the nearest racer and blasts them up into the air, green which do the same job but just don’t home in meaning you’ll have to manually aim them and finally probably Mario Karts most controversial weapon, the blue shell. This monster of a shell flies into the air and flies towards the leader, taking them (the leader) and anyone else near them in the sky with a massive blue explosion. You can also throw bombs to blow racers up, banana skinks to slip them up and send out Gloopers (squid like creatures) to obscure their vision with think black gunk (oh hold on now I think about it maybe that is oil…oh no!). Hold on though, it wouldn’t be fair to have a load of weaponry without anything to defend yourselves with would it? Never fear, you can drop banana skins and other items in the path of oncoming shells so that they hit them instead of you, decoy flutter I suppose. If you’re lucky you might have an invincibility star which just knocks anything (even many track obstacles) out of your way.
The courses (or tracks) in Mario Kart Wii are quite varied but generally fall into three categories, easy tracks are of the simple circular variety and it’s usually hard to run into too much trouble. The medium tracks feature more obstacles and it’s also usually possible to fall off into the underground abyss. You’ll soon know the hard tracks when you see them, lots of obstacles, tracks that move underneath you as you drive over them, have violent volcanic eruptions, mind boggling twists and loads of other stuff designed to halt your progress. Negotiating the hard tracks without any errors shows a true mark of karting genius, needless to say I’m a wonderful driver and I can avoid these dangers like Vanessa Feltz avoids salads. Retro fans will be pleased to hear that 16 of the 32 tracks included are pretty faithfully remakes of classic tracks from previous Mario Kart games; they’re not quite as horrifically dangerous as the new Wii ones but still plenty of fun.
You’ve probably heard that Mario Kart Wii comes with a free weird looking wheel accessory, well you heard right. Basically you can just shove a Wii Remote into this Wheel Shaped shell and low and behold you have a semi realistic steering wheel to wave about. The Wii Wheel itself is really well designed and even though is a cheap plastic shell; it really doesn’t feel like it. It feels rather sturdy and is a good weight, this official Wii Wheel is definitely superior to other wheel accessories you may see on the market so if you have tried them and thought they were rubbish don’t dismiss this one so easily. Racing with the Wii Wheel is also pretty good, I was quite apprehensive about it at first and was telling everyone I would be using a gamecube pad instead, but you know it has sort of won me over a bit. I don’t use it every time of course, overall I prefer using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck combo but that is more down to comfort rather than the Wheel not being as good to race with (holding the wheel in the air can make your arms ache after a while).
You can put all of that other new stuff to one side now because the best thing of all is the new online mode allowing up to 12 players to race and battle online. No longer are you confined to CPU only races, from now on you can race real people and not artificial intelligence (and artificial stupidity for that matter). There is room for you and a guest to head onto the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection and race in a never ending series of grand prix’s or Battles stages. With online downloadable ghost races and even monthly speciality themed competitions run by Nintendo, you can be sure that this game disc will last many months inside your Wii. The Mario Kart Wii online experience has been totally lag free so far and I’ve only been disconnected twice in all the frantic racing hours I’ve played. For all you offline racers don’t worry you can still race 4 multiplayer action on your Wii as you would expect from Mario Kart. People may moan that there is no voice chat support on Nintendo’s console, it’s not something that bothers me too much as I don’t have any friends to taunt and swear at over a VOIP connection.
The graphics whilst not comparable to the next gen offerings are smooth, colourful, well animated and still damn nice to look at. Mario Kart wouldn’t be as fun racing around the gritty streets of GTA’s Liberty City and vice versa you wouldn’t want to be seen carjacking and womanising in Mario’s colourful landscapes, your street cred would just plummet.
This is probably the best Mario Kart game so far, a great mix of everything that has made the console version so fun over the years as well as the tentative new game play modes offered by the DS version, it’s still not perfect but what it does right can’t be bettered by anyone, what it does wrong is mainly down to Nintendo’s over protectiveness of children in the online mode (no speaking to strangers, or anyone for that matter) so don’t moan about it too much, after all its good to know someone cares about your kids, it’s certainly not the teachers who go like to go on strike is it? (I’m getting so right wing in my old age; I better get a job at the Daily Mail). Any road up, I give Mario Kart Wii and excellent 9 out of 10 and if it was your job to review it, you probably would too.