When Mario Kart Wii was delivered to my doorstep, I wasn't sure what my reaction would be to the latest in the popular franchise. Would I love it? Would I hate it? Would it be just another title that couldn't live up to the hype? After playing it for about four hours yesterday, I can say with full certainty that Mario Kart Wii is one of the best games I have played in quite some time.
Now I'm sure you're wondering how I can make such a statement after playing the game for four hours and I can understand that viewpoint. But until you actually play the game and have the opportunity to use the Wii Wheel and interact with this game, you won't truly understand.
And let's also not forget that the true beauty of Mario Kart Wii isn't necessarily found in the amount of time you play, but in the quality of your experience. And so far, after playing through 20 tracks, I can say that Mario Kart Wii is easily the most fun game I've ever played on the Wii and certainly is up there with other titles as one of the most entertaining games of all-time.
I'm sure you want to know how the Wii Wheel works. First off, you should know that it does take some getting used to and believe it or not, it can be tiresome to use after prolonged periods. Luckily though, its response to your gestures is so quick and accurate that you're certainly not at a disability when playing against others who aren't using the wheel.
In order to use the Wii Wheel, you need only to snap the Wii remote into it and get on your way. If you're not keen on the Wii Wheel, Nintendo also lets you control your kart with the Wii remote and nunchuk, the classic controller and the GameCube controller. I tried all four configurations and although each works well, the game was designed with the Wii Wheel in mind and I think you have the best experience playing it that way.
Generally speaking, it could take about two or three races before you really get the hang of using the Wii Wheel and I quickly found myself overcompensating in the beginning before I truly understood how it worked. After that though, you'll notice that driving is much easier and its responsiveness makes playing Mario Kart Wii even more fun.
All in all, Mario Kart Wii's graphics are on-par with other Nintendo titles and certainly nothing that will put you into shock. The game's graphics are good for the Wii, but compared to other titles like Call of Duty 4, the graphics don't match up.
But who cares? Mario Kart Wii wasn't designed to wow you with beauty; it was designed to impress you with its gameplay. And although it may not look as pretty as some people might like, I never found it distracting and came to appreciate the soft art of each track.
Characters, cars and tracks
When you first start out, all of the major Nintendo creations are there for the taking. Whether you're looking for Donkey Kong or Mario, Luigi or Wario, anyone you want is available. I don't want to get into unlocked characters and new tracks (I don't want to spoil your fun), but I should say that the stable of characters in this version is fantastic and each have their own specialty that should suit your fancy in any situation.
With a totally new set of cars, Mario Kart Wii really shines. If you're looking for something that's fast, but lightweight, it's there for the choosing. If you're heading to a winding track like DK Summit, you may want something with better handling and a slightly slower speed. But unlike past iterations of the franchise where speed is all that really mattered, knowing your kart's specs is extremely important and that added element of strategy makes Mario Kart Wii all the more compelling. And while the differences between karts may be subtle, after playing the same track with different vehicles, you quickly realize that not all karts are created equal any longer.
Also, Mario Kart Wii introduces a new kart that should make the Nintendo zealots cheer from the rafters -- bikes. If you're sick and tired of the ol' four-wheelers, try your hand at the bikes. I wasn't too impressed with the bike offerings and noticed little difference between those and the karts. That said, when you tilt the Wii Wheel up while riding on the bike, you can perform a wheelie and get a special speed boost. I especially found this useful during long stretches of straight road and found that bikes are probably best when you don't need to wind your way through cities. And although I would have liked to see more out of them, I was happy to see them included and was relatively satisfied with their performance.
When you first boot up the game, you're presented with 16 tracks and will be able to unlock 16 more. Eight of those tracks are brand-new and eight are classics from almost every version of Mario Kart -- SNES, N64, GCN, GBA and DS. This homage to the past was not only a welcome addition, but I quickly found myself remembering shortcuts of old and enjoying my return to the classics I played through years ago. And with the addition of new characters, new karts (or bikes) and the Wii Wheel, the old courses carried a renewed freshness that made me forget that eight courses are simply refurbished versions of old ideas.
But it's that dedication to the past that peeks through on many levels in Mario Kart Wii. Whether it's something so small as green and red shells in orbit around your player before you're forced to shoot them or a trail of bananas being towed along as you make your way through the track, you quickly realize that the developers have tried to bring the old-time flavor into a next-generation title. And the beauty of that tack is not only that the old-timers like me can go back to the days of old, but that newcomers who did not play the SNES or Nintendo 64 versions will look at these small additions as fresh new features that differentiate this title from the Gamecube version.
Playing Mario Kart Wii was a treat on many levels. For the first time since Super Mario Galaxy, I have found a Wii game that will not only be fun to play with friends, but extremely entertaining when alone. As I mentioned above, the Wii Wheel is probably the best way to play the game and Nintendo did a great job of making sure it responds accurately to your gestures. I would have liked if the wheel was slightly bigger and a bit heavier, but that's a small problem that doesn't detract from the value of this game in any way.
I played through Mario Kart Wii in Grand Prix mode, multiplayer mode and single-player mode. I also played a few quick rounds of Battle mode. Through each of those trials, I found something new to like at every turn. One of my favorites -- Wario Mines -- combines the adrenaline of a roller coaster with the enjoyment of the Wii Wheel and hinting camera angles to put a smile on your face every time you play. Trust me, this isn't a gushing evaluation -- it's simply the truth.
Playing Mario Kart Wii is easily the most fun I have ever had on the Wii and with further playtime, it could become one of my most beloved games of all-time. With a healthy mix of new and old and a totally unique way to get Mario around the tracks, Mario Kart Wii delivers on every level and has created a benchmark for fun and entertainment that may not be matched.
If you own a Wii, pick up a copy of Mario Kart Wii. If you don't own a Wii, get one and buy this game when it hits store shelves on April 27.
Trust me, it's that good.