You have to wonder what happened when Miyamoto proposed to the Nintendo board that they take their characters, put them in karts, and race them together in a game. Perhaps he was laughed out of the office, but either way, it has turned out to be a genius move for Nintendo. Mario Kart is now one of the world's biggest gaming franchises and with the Nintendo Wii now well established on the market, it was only a matter of time until the Mario Kart game came back. It is here now, and while it has a few problems, the core gameplay remains and Mario Kart Wii is a game that does a lot right. It may not be a 'must own' for Wii owners, but it is at least a 'must try' because it still remains of the most enjoyable and fun party games around.
Mario Kart Wii contains a number of game modes with Battle and Grand Prix forming most of the gameplay. Grand Prix tasks you with beating up to eleven other Nintendo characters to win the championship, unlock more karts and championships, and generally win it all. It is a tried and tested formula we have seen before, but it still remains some of the most fun gameplay around.
For those of you who have lived under a rock the past decade or so, Mario Kart places some of Nintendos most famous franchise characters into go karts and races them together. On paper it doesn't sound that interesting, but Miyamoto had the genius to be able to pull it off and it still remains a fun game today. It may require a bit of luck rather than skill but you can play it for thirty minutes or three hours and still have a lot of fun.
There has been one major addition to the Mario Kart gameplay this time around and that is motorbikes. Available initially in 100 and 150cc classes, bikes change the gameplay immensely. They are easier to perform tricks with and doing so gives you speed boost however they are easier to fall off of, particular on tracks like Rainbow Road, so there is definitely a cost to all the benefits they have. Once you finish all the championships, bikes or karts become available in them depending on the restriction. You can also race bike, kart or together anytime once they are unlocked.
Another major addition is the fact that the game is now motioned controlled. Shipping with the game is a plastic wheel which the wiimote clips into and we found it to be the best controller of choice. With motion control in place Nintendo has dumbed down the controls and characters will automatically begin to skid around hard corners unlike having to jump as per the previous games. If you are using the classic controller this is still a manual process.
Along with this a number of new characters have made the ride and each character has a number of cars and bikes to choose from. This brings a new sense of strategy to the game and some of the more famous Nintendo characters make an appearance such as Boo and Diddy Kong who incidentally has his own racing game as well. What remains puzzling however is the lack of Samus from Metriod and Link and Zelda from the Zelda games. Three of Nintendo's biggest characters still don't have their go kart licence it seems.
As with the previous games, luck mostly determines whether you win or not. There are powerups scattered on each track with each having a small or medium effect. There are some devastating powerups which you tend to get when you are at the back of the race and this is Mario Kart's version of 'rubber band' syndrome. You can never be happy when you are in first because you know a back marker is going to get a powerup which is seemingly unstoppable. It is about time that Mario Kart moved on from this. Don't get rid of the powerups, but don't make it so luck based either.
In terms of tracks this really is Mario Kart: Greatest Hits. Tracks from DS, GBA, GCN, SNES and N64 all make an appearance as well as a number of new tracks. It is a little disappointing that the developers couldn't come up with all new tracks but it is fair to say that this Mario Kart game has the most tracks available in the series ever with a total of ten championships available in each speed class. The tracks designed from the ground up for Wii are the stand outs with some challenging areas and fun gameplay to be had. As you would expect the graphics are improved but not as much as some would like as they could be better still. The cartoon effects do the job but we can't help but want more. Also aside from one small instance, unlike other Mario games, Super Mario Galaxy is not referenced which is a huge disappointment as the star tracks could have been a lot of fun.
Mario Kart also for the first time now features online play. We tried it out and found it to be flawless if you're playing with those near you. Obviously trying to play people from the other side of the world will give you some lag, but the match making system is quick and easy to use and we were in a game within minutes. This really is the best addition to Mario Kart Wii because multiplayer is the best component of Mario Kart.
Mario Kart Wii is a game which doesn't do all that much new but it didn't really have to, as it remains as one of the best and most enjoyable games around still. It is a game which fans of the series will lap up and even though those who didn't like the series probably won't change their minds after this one, we think all Wii gamers should at least try it out, especially online.