I Kart Believe It!
We’ve all got our favourite versions of Mario Kart. Most favour the SNES original. Personally I’ve always like the N64 version. Whatever your favourite Mario Kart game, Mario Kart Wii will not disappoint.
Mario Kart Wii is the Mario Kart with something for everyone. It’s even more pick up and play thanks to the motion-sensing control and the genius decision to include the Wii Steering Wheel. It’s only a piece of plastic – but it makes playing Mario Kart Wii all the more involving, and will be an enormous grin-inducing novelty for the largely non-gamer Wii audience.
Those more hardcore Mario Kart players however will probably want to opt for either the Classic or GameCube controller, or alternatively the Wiimote and Nunchuk setup, both of which allow for more precision steering.
The skill in Mario Kart Wii comes with chaining together drifts into Mario Kart Wii’s other boost mechanics.
Whichever you choose, controlling Mario Kart Wii is simple, but mastering it is altogether trickier. That’s mostly because of the new boost system. Gone are the days of waggling the analogue stick. That wouldn’t have worked with the Wii Wheel. Instead, holding your drift will give you the blue flame, and letting go grants a speed boost. A prolonged drift begets a red flame and a stronger acceleration. An auto drift option eliminates the boosts, but serious players will go with manual drift control.
To veterans, that may seem a little less skilful than past Mario Karts. And in a way it is. The skill in Mario Kart Wii comes with chaining together drifts into Mario Kart Wii’s other boost mechanics.
Mario Kart Wii is the fastest Mario Kart ever. Boost pads are more liberally spread, and jumps can now be tricked off – which is as simple as wiggling the Wii Remote or wheel – to get a speed boost. Motorbikes, a new inclusion for Mario Kart Wii, can wheelie with an upwards flick of the Wiimote, which grants another speed boost at the expense of manoeuvrability.
String this all together skilfully and you’ll be wheelying into drifts, drifting into boost pads, boosting into stretches, drift-boosting into jumps, tricking in the air and boosting as you land. And that’s not even factoring in boosts from various Mushroom power-ups. The Wii Wheel may make Mario Kart Wii the most accessible in the series, but it’s also the deepest.
Apart from that, Mario Kart Wii is vintage Mario Kart. Literally, in the case of half of its tracks, which are reprisals of old Mario Kart courses. All have been brought up to Wii visual standards, which may not be a big jump for the GameCube tracks, but makes a big difference on the 16 GBA, DS and SNES courses. Nonetheless, the 16 Wii-exclusive courses are by far and away busier and more involving.
The Wii Wheel may make Mario Kart Wii the most accessible in the series, but it’s also the deepest.
In structure, Mario Kart Wii’s Grand Prix presents eight cups, four from the get-go, to play at 50cc, 100cc and 150cc classes. 50cc is Karts only, and 100cc is exclusive to bikes, which makes for a steep difficulty curve. But by the time you’ve hit 150cc you’ll be a Mario Kart Wii expert and able to reap the full benefits of both vehicles types, power-ups and its boosting bonkersness.
Mario Kart Wii expands the racing field from eight to twelve racers for online play, which works as well as, if not better than, any other online Wii title thus far, with support for two-player same-system play. Purists can still enjoy frantic four-player same-screen karting insanity in both race and Battle modes, too.
Sadly, Battle Mode is now purely team-based, but the ten arenas on offer – again, half new, half retro – provide a great selection. Additionally, the Mario Kart Wii Channel option allows you to track high scores and view online leaderboards, extending the usefulness of Time Trial modes and giving Mario Kart Wii a distinct community feel.
Like its forebears, Mario Kart Wii embodies Nintendo’s fun for all ethos. It adapts for the system to be widely playable, while giving hardcore Nintendo fanatics a further level of challenge, and brings it all online for up to twelve players to enjoy. GT5 Prologue may have only recently arrived, but for many this will be the year’s must-have racer, and arguably the best Mario Kart yet.
- The Wii Wheel will be great for novice gamers, while vetrans will enjoy adjusting to the new drift mechanics.
- Stringing drifts, boosts, power ups, tricks and wheelies together gives Mario Kart Wii plenty of depth.
- Fantastic online play with two players on one system. Still wonderful four-player splitscreen gaming offline, too.
- Visually it's a mixed bag. New tracks look grand, old tracks a bit bland.
- Battle Mode is now team-based only.
- Perhaps still a tad too weapon focused for SNES Mario Kart lovers.