Every time Nintendo launches a new platform, fans immediately begin to speculate on new iterations to classic series. With the Wii and its motion controls, there was no limit to the wonderful ideas gamers had about how we’d play a new Zelda, Mario, or Smash Bros. installment. Each of the three mentioned games decided to stick with the mechanics that made them great, while adding subtle improvements that added to the overall package. Mario Kart Wii does half of what I’m talking about.
Nintendo didn’t reinvent the wheel–Ha!–with Mario Kart Wii. Many of the features present in the previous console entry, Double Dash!!, were discarded in favor of a return to the basics. You won’t find two riders to a cart (and with it, co-op play) or character-specific items here. Instead, Mario Kart Wii introduces a trio of new ideas: motion controls, motorbikes, and online play.
The Wii Wheel, packaged with the game proper, provides the purest means of playing the game using motion controls–you can drive sans wheel, but over-correcting becomes a bigger obstacle than the other cheating bastards on the road (more on that in minute). The only problem is that using the wheel places a handicap upon you. There’s a level of precision inherent in using the Nunchuck/Remote combo and the Classic Controller (my personal recommendation) that the Wii Wheel just can’t match. On the harder difficulties, that just may be the difference between first and last.
As in all Mario Kart games, the home cookin’ is rampant and offensive. Home cookin’, for the uninitiated, is when computer-controlled opponents just happen to come back from behind or get a Goddamned blue shell right as you are about to cross the finish line. Mario Kart Wii happens to have the most egregious and infuriating swing from Baby Mode (50 CC) to Weeping Grown Man Mode (150 CC). The first two and a third laps are included for show; almost every race on the higher difficulties is decided in the last 30 seconds. It’s like shopping on eBay: pay attention, remain unnoticed in the middle of the pack, and strike at the last possible moment. It won’t work every time, but when it does, it feels like scaling Mt. Everest.
The Motorbike, the second of the three major additions to the game, differs only slightly from carting: instead of relying on power turns for boosts, the bikes use a wheelie mechanic in order to gain boosts. This gives birth to a new form of the dreaded snaking technique. Stringing together wheelies allows you to essentially maintain a slight boost throughout the entire race. It’s a difficult technique to master, but there’s always some asshole out there working to perfect it.
And you will run into him. Mario Kart Wii introduces probably the best online mode in any Wii game to date–which isn’t saying much, because it’s still hampered by the dreaded friend codes and lack of voice chat. Playing with your buddies can be a hassle, but jumping into a race with some random gamers worldwide is painless. Now, talking trash after a particularly close race would be the only addition this mode would need.
Mario Kart Wii offers a smorgasbord of unlockable content, in the form of racers and tracks. Many of the hidden racers seem redundant (i.e. the “Baby” versions of characters. What corner of the fanbase is clamoring for more Baby Daisy?), but being able to use your Mii is one of knee-slappin’ awesome moments that game hands out from time to time. The tracks, both the ones available at the outset and their unlockable cousins, vary from good to great. It seems odd to head back to the SNES-era tracks and feel both nostalgia and boredom. They’ve never seemed so flat before.
For each insipid, stupid-ass turn the game makes, it never veers off-track enough to kill the experience. This is, after all, Mario Kart. While not the revelation it could have been, Mario Kart Wii provides enough great moments (and provides the only safe way to drink and drive) to make it a worthwhile investment for Wii owners.
Mr. Face say this game **good**. Mr. Face never wrong!