The classic kart racer is back, and it’s as good as ever! Maybe it’s even better than ever. The addition of the motion controls and the online functionality are absolute boons to a series that already completely rocked. Moreover, the inclusion of great retro tracks to a primo list of new courses has created a ton of variety for everyone to enjoy.
There are only a few minor problems in the entire title, but they are worth mentioning. First, the battle modes, though excellent, are too few with a scant number of customizable options. Second, the emphasis on equalizing item pick-ups takes a good deal of skill and strategy out of the title. Despite these two flaws, the game is an absolute blast! Players of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds will love this title for the sheer joy and excitement it produces. Good show, Team Mario!
Mario Kart Wii is chocked full of fun tracks both new and retro. The retro list reads like a Rolling Stones’ greatest hits album and the new courses are so good that I was blown away by their creativity and playability. The same can be said for the Battle arenas: unlike the GameCube’s mostly unimaginative battlegrounds (don’t worry…I still loved them), these arenas do a far better job of testing your ability. In addition to the staggering amount of great environments from past and present, there are a number of game modes including Grand Prix, Time Trial, VS, Battle, and the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to keep you busy indeed.
Grand Prix is a great single player mode that has gamers challenge eleven A.I. opponents in a series of cup races. Should you finish in the top three overall after four races you will be awarded with a shiny trophy, a mark on your Mario Kart Wii Driver License, and sometimes a new, more challenging cup will open up. Furthermore, the cups are divided into difficulty classes of 50cc (karts only until you beat it), 100cc (bikes only until you beat it), and 150cc (karts and bikes). Players have the choice of playing the sixteen new courses or the sixteen retro tracks divided between eight cups. If you finish first in certain cups, you will also be able to open up new characters (including your very own Mii to use both at home and online), new karts and bikes, and even the challenging mirror mode. After fully completing the Grand Prix on every setting and difficulty you should be more than ready to take on the world!
Time Trial mode allows you to set personal records on a series of tracks. This was always a bit dull as you were just beating your own scores, but now you can save your records, send them to friends or even have the world challenge your scores. The inclusion of ghosts from friends, rivals, and world champions makes Time Trial an amazing addition to Mario Kart!
VS mode has you take on your friends or the CPU in Solo and Team races. The Solo races simply have each individual accrue points over the series to see who ends up on top. Team races uses the same concept except that total points for the entire team are tallied to see who the champions are.
Battle mode offers two solid options to be played locally or online. Balloon Battle has you pop the other team’s balloons with shells and other various items. The team with the most points at the end wins. Coin Runners has each team member try to accumulate as many coins as possible. If you are hit by the opposition, you will lose some portion of your coins. The team with the most coins at the end wins. Both Battle modes are timed and team-based. Unfortunately, there are no individual free-for-alls.
Gameplay in Mario Kart Wii is fast, fun, and often cruel. This is an excellent combination that puts the experience into an elite group. I’ve had as much enjoyment out of this title as I’ve had with Call of Duty 3 and 4’s online multiplayer, Resistance’s Co-Op campaign, and Madden’s online component. I’m serious; it’s been a long time since I have had so much fun from a video game. That being said, you may pull your hair out while opening up all of the tracks, karts, and features, and while accruing points online.
During single player Grand Prix races, the A.I. cheats so often that you’ll be tempted to chuck your Wii Wheel through your flat screen TV. Honestly, it’s a good thing they made a space for the safety strap because the Wheel feels like a weighty Frisbee that longs to be tossed! Moreover, online races are often marred by some lucky soul who gets a series of uber-items at the perfect moment. But that’s all part of the game’s charm and challenge, right?
Yes and no; I’m glad it’s very challenging, but I also get annoyed when Blue Shells and Bullet Bills turn a game into complete chaos. Consequently, this is a game in which first-to-worst is an omnipresent threat. This may deter core gamers from fully enjoying the title due to the oft destruction of fragile egos. However, if you can deal with misfortune, I promise you’ll be giggling and screaming from both joy and consternation. It’s actually a quite pleasurable experience on the whole! I just wish that Nintendo would have included option modifications like they did in VS mode. For example, in VS mode you can select a game where only “strategic” items are allowed. This goes a long way toward separating the wheat from the chaff, and it would be best if this feature were included via a downloadable update in the future to the online modes.
One other issue I found was the lack of Battle options. There are so many nods to previous versions of Kart that I was shocked to find only two Battle types. Come on, Nintendo! Battling it out on the SNES and NGC was my favorite part of those games. What happened to Bob-Bomb Blast? Being able to play multiple Battle types in the excellent collection of wide open and intricate arenas would have been the ultimate. Instead we have to settle for coin-collecting and point-tallying team battles. Don’t get me wrong; they’re still tons of fun, but cruel elimination free-for-alls would have been amazing, and I expected them to be there!
Technically, the online component is flawless. I found there to be no lag whatsoever, and I was instantly connected to players from around the world. The few times I had to wait only occurred when initially starting, as the players’ game I was joining was still in progress. Instead of giving me a blank screen to stare at, I was allowed to watch the racers and switch between them in order to learn what their strategies were. Furthermore, the optional Mario Kart Channel does a great job of generating a sense of community by getting tournaments together, establishing worldwide, regional, and friend list rankings, and allowing for the sharing of Time Trial Ghosts. These features are excellent! Who doesn’t want to know where they sit on the Mario Kart totem pole? I especially liked the fact that Nintendo will send out important ghost challenges (i.e. the World Time Trial Record for Peach Beach, Rival Ghosts, etc.) to players from time to time. All you have to do is simply update your Downloaded Ghost Lists. This allows you to challenge the world’s best as well as take on times from players that are near your current skill level. The addition of online battles, racing, tournaments, and time trial ghosts is all so good that they will really extend the life of the game long after all of the levels have been bested.
The controls in Mario Kart Wii are amazing! If you didn’t already know, Mario Kart Wii allows you to choose between practically every control scheme imaginable. You can use the Wii Remote alone, with the Wii Wheel, with the Nunchuk attachment, the GameCube controller, and the Classic controller. As a result, there should be something for everyone. This was a huge point of relief for me when I first heard that it would offer multiple control schemes. I am quite partial to the GameCube controls and didn’t want to be shackled to a gimmicky motion sensitive scheme. However, my fears about how the Wii Wheel would perform were completely unfounded. Steering your karts and bikes, drifting, and launching shells are an absolute dream with the new setup! I honestly can’t see why anyone would want to use the old controls.
The title’s presentation is immaculate. The graphics are really nice, and the music and sounds are perfect. Specifically, the visuals are marked by highly detailed tracks and characters. All of the new courses are completely engaging, and the retro tracks look so shiny that they almost seem new! The only downfall I can find is that the graphics aren’t entirely crisp. The resolution issue is a bit of a bummer, and as a result some players may need to get close to the set during split-screen play. On the other hand, the music and sounds couldn’t have been better! The classic Nintendo characters all have a lot to say in a really fun way. Moreover, the musical themes are distinct and truly great for each and every level. I especially liked the Irish-themed music of the pastoral Moo Moo Meadows, but every level sounds awesome. Even the music from the retro tracks has been brought back to lay on the nostalgia nice and thick!
All in all, this is an excellent title that every game enthusiast should own. If anyone tells you they don’t like the game, then they probably don’t like chocolate, the Superbowl or comedies either. There is so much fun packed into the title that all but the most “alternative” of core gamers are bound to love it. It’s true there are a few flaws that could be ironed out, but that’s like faulting Rockstar for using an inauthentic accent for Niko’s cousin in GTA IV; they just don’t matter all that much. The variety and ingenuity of track selection along with the implementation of an excellent online component makes Mario Kart Wii a game for the ages!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
The tracks and characters are highly detailed and completely engaging! The only downfall is that the graphics aren’t entirely crisp. As a result some players may need to get close to the screen during split-screen play. 5.0 Control
My fears about how the Wii Wheel would perform were completely unfounded. Steering your karts and bikes, drifting, and launching shells are an absolute dream! 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The classic Nintendo characters all have a lot to say in a really fun way. The musical themes are distinct and truly great for each and every level. 4.9
This game’s an absolute blast! The score is just shy of perfect because more battle mode options should have been included.
4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.