Mario Kart Wii: Fun & Frustrating

posted in Games on Jun 18, 2008

This post may be a little outdated since this game is a few weeks old, but I just wanted to throw down some general opinions of the game.

Of course, this is Mario Kart. You’ve played this before on every Nintendo console since the SNES. This edition in the series has come back to its proverbial roots. Gone are the two passenger karts that were so debatable in the Gamecube version (people either loved or hated those. I was indifferent, honestly. I had fun either way). Returning are the solo karts that most people are familiar with. New to the game are motorcycles. To be perfectly honest, they sound really really cool but do not add an incredible amount of variance to the gameplay. They can, however, do wheelies that can give the player additional speed with loss of some control in addition to being able to drive through dirt and grass a little better. Karts get absolutely destroyed in terms of speed if you happen to go astray.

There are two big addtiions to the game that are new to Nintendo console (not handheld) Mario Karts. The first that everyone notices is, of course, the Wii Wheel. This completely original and never before seen device is included with every copy of the game for no additional cost. Really it’s just a plastic shoe for the Wii Remote to fit in. And while it doesn’t look like anything special, it adds a lot. I’ve come to absolutely love the Wii Wheel. I didn’t think I would, because up until now I’ve been a tried and true controller only karter ( what other choice did I have?). I thought that I would use the wheel a couple of times and then throw it aside. The opposite has happened. I pretty much use the wheel only now. It adds this visceral level to the game that makes it incredibly fun. There were worries that it would not be as responsive as the regular controller, but I think it controls better with the wheel. I feel like it fits perfectly with the game, and I’m sure they tweaked it for the wheel, but I’m just saying. Just like peace, you need to give it a chance.

The second “new” thing to come along is the added online modes. The game plays smooth as butter online, and that is really quite surprising. I didn’t think it would be so easy and work so well. Adding friends is made simpler as well. There are still friend codes, but you can send invites to friends on your main Wii friends list. It’s a baby step, but it’s one step closer by Nintendo for making a contemporary online experience. Not perfect, but better.

The online service also tracks yours and your friends’ records through a Mario Kart channel that exists on your Wii’s main page. This channel can be launched – without the game inside the machine – to check these records in addition to downloading “ghosts” to race and entering tourneys. Of course, once you do try to race ghosts or enter a tournament, you have to insert the game, but it’s nice to be able to check.

There is one thing that I do not like about the game, and this is a complaint many peopl ehave had about the last few Mario Karts: Blue shells and “Rubberbanding.” No matter how good a racer you are, if you stay in first place for too long you will inevitably be hit by a blue shell. It is pretty much unavoidable, especially at the 100cc and 150cc levels. This will make the other computer racers “rubber band” back up to you. It doesn’t matter how good you are, the computer will always be in contention. Always. While this makes for more “excitement,” it also adds to the frustration. The player’s ability to race by virtue of skill is reduced, and the level of having to rely on luck is greatly increased. Fortunately, when you’re playing with real people online or otherwise, it’s less of an annoyance. It doesn’t seem to be as aggravating because you don’t feel like humans can “cheat” to get those items like the computer can.

So all in all it’s a very solid game. The Mario Kart games always are. If you have any interest in the game or past games then you should probably pick it up. It is one of the best in the series.