Giant Bomb Review

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Mario Kart Wii Review

3
  • Wii

Mario Kart Wii lives up to series expectations in the safest ways imaginable.

During my time with Mario Kart Wii, the theory was proposed to me that Nintendo has ceased trying to evolve its franchises, opting instead to simply remake their trademark games for each new generation of players, and I think the Mario Kart franchise serves as a powerful Exhibit A for this argument. In my experience, if people have a favorite Mario Kart game, it's usually the first one they played. Mario Kart Wii is by no means bad, but it seems built for first-timers, and those looking to recapture what it felt like to be a first-timer. It delivers just about everything you expect from a Mario Kart game, both good and bad, making for an experience that can be fun, but never surprising.

Mario Kart Wii in action.
So expect to see your usual roster of Mushroom Kingdom denizens power-sliding their way around serpentine courses peppered with jumps, boost pads, and crazy obstacles. There have been some modifications and some additions to the stock Mario Kart experience, but these are minor refinements, not evolutionary jumps. There's a whole host of different control schemes, including a motion-control option that makes use of the little plastic steering wheel shell that comes packed-in with the game. I could see the Wii wheel being fun if I had never actually driven a car, but the novelty doesn't make up for the lack of precision for me. I personally found that a GameCube controller or a remote-and-nunchuk combo produced the best results, and if I didn't have an irrational distaste for the Classic Controller, that'd probably work pretty well, too. 

In addition to the different character weight classes, there are now a number of different karts and motorbikes to choose from, each with a unique handling profile that can have a very dramatic effect on how the game handles. If you run a couple grand prix races in a kart, then switch over to a bike, expect to bring up the rear for a couple races. Both bikes and karts can perform stunts in mid-air, resulting in a little shot of boost when you hit the ground. Bikes are essentially two-wheeled karts, though when you're on a bike you can pop a wheelie for extra speed on a straightaway, and bikes don't get the second level of yellow sparks that karts can get by holding an extra-long power-slide. Despite all these variables, the basic Mario Kart rule of “Always Be Drifting, Except When You Shouldn't” still applies across the board.

The structure of the game is predictably familiar. Single-player revolves around grand prix races that come in 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc varieties, though you can also run time trials, create custom races, or partake in the consistently tedious battle mode. I found the grand prix stuff fun, right up until I got to the 150cc level, at which point my Mario Kart skills buckled under the crushing force of random chance. With inherently solid controls, Mario Kart Wii, and by extension, every other Mario Kart game, could be an accessible, skill-based racing game, if it weren't for all those goddamn power-ups, and the game's serial habit of giving the most potent power-ups to last-place players. What's the fun in skillfully outmaneuvering 11 opponents for three laps only to wind up in 12th following a barrage of blue shells, POW blocks, and thunderheads in the final stretch? It's always been frustrating, and it remains frustrating. 

The multiplayer options are bolstered by the inclusion of online play, which kind of alleviates the sad fate of playing Mario Kart all by yourself, albeit in the silent, heavily insulated world of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, where it's difficult to play with friends and strangers at the same time. Maybe I'm just jaded, but it's 2008 y'all, the simple inclusion of online play is no longer enough to set my world on fire. I'm also a little bothered by the track selection in Mario Kart Wii. There are 32 different tracks here, a full half of which are straight-up remakes of tracks from past Mario Kart games. To be fair, a number of the new tracks are fun and inventive, and I understand why some people would be excited about the inclusion of so many tracks from past Mario Kart games, but for me it just reinforced the feeling that, yup, I've totally already played this game before. 

Mario Kart Wii is a good game stunted by its audience's apparently insatiable appetite for the exact same thing, over and over again. The addition of online play and motion controls are good, but they're also the most predictable choices possible. Personally, I'm completely tired of getting exactly what I expect.
10 Comments
Posted by RVonE

I guess innovation is not always desirable. I really like this new edition of Mario Kart, but I agree that it seems like Nintendo feels content to just churn out a rehash of the same game every few years.

Posted by floorswine

The online multiplayer was a lot better than I expected, given the Wii's standard laggy and awkward service. Okay, so we're not going to see Nintendo coming up with anything to rival Steam in the near future, but they need to be at least matching what Mario Kart Wii can do in all new games with online play.

Posted by Quistoman

My opinion mirrors the original review here. My oldest was upset that most of the Mario Cart Wii race tracks are the same as her DS tracks and its too close to a straight port for her. It dose provide quality fun and some solid game mechanics but I wonder how much of that is just us being so use to really sub par games that it makes good games seem great...
Just like eddy said if your starving and someone tosses you a cracker that’s going to taste like the best cracker you ever had and wile we aren’t exactly starving,  I do think Wii owners are always kept hungry and for a reason, anyway just my thoughts on it.

Posted by Everyones_A_Critic

What brought the experience down a few pegs for me was the low amount of tracks. It's nice to see some of the retro ones return but I feel they delved a bit too deep into that pot. Local multiplayer is incredibly fun, but I wished there was a tournament set-up option like in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It's pretty easy to get a pen and paper tourney going but the convenience would be nice.

Posted by Junior_AIN

I can't believe I haven't still bought this game, but I look at it and it seems the same, with some aesthetics changes here and there.

Posted by BestUsernameEver

I only really liked the N64 one and maybe the DS one. Both were truly arcade, and it wasn't amazing, but they both were memorable, still remember me in Algebra sneaking our DS's under the desks to play Mario kart.

Online
Posted by Zalzargahoughanstine

Exhibit A: Mario Kart

Exhibit B: Mario Party

Posted by Vgsounds

I hated this game. Maybe I am just crazy but if I wanted another N64 Mario Kart Game I would would of just pulled out my Nintendo 64. The wheel control scheme is stupid this isn't real driving. Wheels should be used for real simulation driving games only. Not this kidy garbage. I wish they would mix it up more and stop treating wii players with bubbles around thier heads trying to keep us all safe from naughty words. But still it is worth a rental.

Posted by TheMagicalLeprechaun

It's amazing how much reused material a company can pack into a game...

I still prefer Double Dash.
Posted by Claude

A live and learn review for me. The joy of text and thoughts... How do I feel about this game?