Review: Mario Kart Wii

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I know the game has been out for a while, but I really wanted to get some quality time in before offering up some final opinions on Mario Kart Wii. The game has taken a bit of a beating from popular gaming sites and has been given lukewarm reviews. Some reviewers *cough* 1up *cough* are even calling it “Mario Kart for babies.” Other reviewers like it, and have been calling it a good mix of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! and Mario Kart DS. So how did I feel about it after a couple of weeks playing the game online and off? Keep reading, fellas.

First off, yes, Mario Kart Wii played it conservative. The game doesn’t make any huge leaps forward in any regard, but it does work toward refining the tried and true Mario Kart formula. The single player consists of the familiar Grand Prix, Time Trials, and Battle modes, each with varying levels of difficulty and speeds. To start, only four cups are unlocked for Grand Prix, so you’ll have some work to do before you can have access to all the tracks the game offers.

I’m a bit confused why the IGN boys were harping on the game’s sense of speed. I think even at 50cc the game has felt as fast as any other Mario Kart, and definitely faster than Double Dash!!. Maybe the wide open tracks made things feel a bit slower, as compared to the tighter tracks found in older Mario Kart titles, which force you to turn and slide more aggressively.

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The classic rubber band gameplay is still in full effect in MK Wii. A narrow lead is rarely safe, but if you can manage to build a significant lead over your rivals, it’s fairly simple to hang onto it through the race. Yes, you’ll have to deal with lightning bolts and blue shells, but you’ll benefit from them at the right times as well. I’ve never understood the rubber band complaint in Mario Kart. It’s not so drastic that the best racers struggle to win, it just keeps the stinkers from getting lapped too often.

The tracks in the game are very bright and pretty. There are some new twists thrown in on some tracks, such as using half pipes to earn boosts and different types of boost arrows. The locations are still character based, but they remain a loose connection. The game also includes many tracks from the SNES, GBA, N64, and GameCube versions of Mario Kart, which are playable in single player, multiplayer, and online modes.

The online modes are smooth as silk. While the game is lacking voice chat (or even text chat), the experience is 100% lag free and matchmaking is very fast. You can play regionally, on a worldwide level, or with friends only. The level of activity is high, so even during late night searches during the mid-week you’ll find people willing to play in either Battle or Race modes. I’d love to have seen voice chat, but it’s not too bad playing without it.

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The gameplay itself is tight, but it has been simplified a bit to make the game more accessible. If you wish, you can make your sliding automatic, but you won’t get speed boosts from them unless you execute them manually. This is to allow veterans to earn their boosts the hard way, while still keeping the door open for newcomers. There is a bit of waggle involved, but it’s minimal. On jumps, if you shake the controller you’ll get a speed boost upon coming down. This hurts those that are planning on using the classic controller or a GameCube controller, so I’d advise using the Wii remote and nunchuck setup. Some may lament the choice to make the game more accessible, but really, hasn’t that been what Mario Kart has been about from the beginning? In the end, I think it will prove to be a good move, as new players can ease into the experience and gradually move over to the more advanced styles of play.

Overall I’m very pleased with Mario Kart Wii. I think they could stand to evolve the series a bit more than by just adding more types of karts and motorcylces, but I’m never going to be disappointed with the proven formula getting a fresh dusting off and sprucing up. In the end, I feel safe recommending the game for Mario Kart vets and newcomers alike.

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Stupid Gamer score: 8/10

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