Counter Point Review: Mario Kart Wii

Mario Kart Wii
Release Date: 04/27/2008
Developer: Nintendo Entertainment
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Kart-racing

Why Mario Kart for the Wii is possibly the worst Mario Kart game in the series.

It seems like Mario can do anything, whether it’s paint, play soccer, baseball, compete in the Olympics, throw parties, etc. Considering all the games and spin-offs you know what would be a interesting game? Mario Plumbing. The Wii motion controls would be perfect for simulating using a plunger to unclog a broken toilet. You know you’d play it.

Mario returns for his 8th appearance in a Wii game to race some go-karts. Mario Kart has always been a favorite around my household, there’s just something about shooting turtle shells at brightly colored mascots that brings my friends together. I’ve loved every single Mario Kart game, even liked how Double-Dash tried to mix things up a little with having two characters per kart. So how does Mario Kart Wii compare with all of the previous titles in the series?

Let’s start off on what Mario Kart on the Wii has changed. Say goodbye to Double Dash’s two players per kart and welcome the return of one mascot per kart. I hope that someday the dual kart racing returns since it was a lot of fun to play with other people. The gameplay has also changed because of this, while Double Dash’s racing focused a lot on picking up items, Mario Kart Wii focuses on speed.

The sense of speed is the best part of Mario Kart Wii. Every moment of every race you are trying to do something to gain a little more speed. With correct timing you get a boost at the start of a race, or from drafting, or from items, or from various boosts along the track or from doing stunts off of a jump, or from drifting around corners, etc. Mario Kart Wii is the F-Zero of Mario Karts. Chaining together various things to pull off one one long speed boost is both fun and addictive.

There are also more drivers per race than previous Mario Kart games. 12 drivers all competing for first place. This adds some chaos to the game, but it also means that there are plenty of drafting opportunities.

The Wii Wheel. Originally I thought that the inclussion of this peripheral was going to be a waste, I planned on using it for the game once then maybe as a paperweight. It’s suprisingly fun on the lower speed races and really contributes to the overall experience of the game. It might not be the best choice at the 150cc races as sometimes it isn’t as accurate as you’d hope for.

Motor Bikes. These are fun although they do not significantly change the gameplay in any way. The major difference between the bikes and karts are that you can get a slight boost while doing wheelies though they can’t get the gold spark boost like karts can while drifting. They’re fun but mostly cosmetic.

Control Schemes. They’re all here, Wii Wheel, Wii-remote, Wii-remote + nunchuck, Gamecube, and classic controller are all the control schemes you can use for the game. If you can plug it into the Wii you can likely control Mario Kart with it. This is a nice feature, and the wheel is decent, but it surprised me to find that the best control scheme is the remote and nunchuck. Trick/wheelies are done with the D-Pad on the Cube and Classic scheme and it’s just not comfortable. I wish they had given the player to adjust the button layout to their preference like Smash Bros though.

All of the above mentioned changes are great additions to the Mario Kart Wii series.

Sadly, those are just the good changes. As for the bad changes, I’d like to submit the following charges to the Court of Gaming Law.

Charge #1: Too much focus on the goddamned power-ups/items

After all the complaining about the hated Blue Turtle Shell of Despair, Nintendo adds some more items to Mario Kart Wii that I think were just added to intentionally piss people off. A giant mushroom that makes the character huge, faster, and able to run over enemies. Not much different than the Bullet Bill power-up that people also hate, and is also in the game. Add to that a POW block, which causes you to spin out and lose your items. And finally a Thundercloud, which give you a boost but will shrink you unless you pass it onto another player.

These new items suck and are almost pointless since other items have similar effects.

The part above where I talked about how it was great that there are more drivers per racetrack? There’s a downside. 12 racers also means every moment a different racer is getting and using an item. Nothing fills a person with violent swear filled rage like pulling off a couple perfect boosts, pulling into 1st, then getting slammed with a Blue Shell. Then a Red Shell. Then a POW Block. Then a Bomb. All one right after you’ve just recovered from the other. Then suddenly you’re in 10th place or last.

I’m sure someone thought this leveled the playing field for all ages, however someone should’ve realized that getting gang-raped by the Mario cast is NOT FUN. The game penalizes you for being in first place, and that is something a racing game should never, ever do.

Charge #2: Multiplayer Mess

According to Nintendo’s advertising, and pretty much what most of the internet community will tell you is that the Wii is fun for multiplayer. Mario Kart has always been great Multiplayer. So Mario Kart Wii should be great multiplayer right?

Sort of.

One of the modes I’ve always played in Mario Kart with either my wife or friends would have to be Balloon Battle. This is in Mario Kart Wii, however it appears as the bastard child of Halo Deathmatch and Balloon Battle. Now instead of a free for all where you try to hit each other with power ups…now the game splits you into two teams, Red VS Blue.

You’re still popping Balloons, but for points now. Kills don’t mean much because you respawn. Maybe I should be congratulating the design team on making a team deathmatch mode work for Mario Kart. Except personally, I play Mario Kart as an alternative to playing games like that.

The online modes are as sterile as a man who has had two vasectomies. No online chat, plus you have to jump through a ton of menus just to race other people. If you play a match with random people and want to add their friend codes to your list so you can play them again at a later date? You can’t do that in Mario Kart Wii. All you can do in Mario Kart Wii to interact with other people is fill out a text message that will appear before and/or after a race. The most interesting part of the online game is that is shows you where your opponents are on a globe. Honestly though, the game could just use randomly generated Mii’s and AI it would be hard to tell the difference. Is voice chat really too much to ask for these days, I mean there are DS Games with voice chat!

Plus, and I know this is more of a problem with Nintendo’s online policies, but I have YET ANOTHER FRIEND CODE? On top of that my wife and I play on the same system and we both have separate codes so if someone wanted to play both of us they’d need both our codes.

The online races/matches are also kind of empty. I’m not sure if it’s because there aren’t very many people playing it online, or if this is the fault of Mario Kart’s matchmaking service, but I haven’t seen a race that’s full and often am only in races with a few other people. A lot of times just one or two.

Finally, why is it that when I’m playing versus with someone else in the room and both of us have our Mario Kart Licenses on the same system, only one of us can log in at a time? And for a game that has always excelled in multiplayer why is there no co-op Grand Prix?

Charge #3: Creating a sequel while cutting features

To link it to the previous complaint, Mario Kart: Double Dash had the ability to play with up to 4 players in the Grand Prix mode. Mario Kart Wii has only one player Grand Prix mode.

Er, WTF?

Mario Kart DS has 16 original tracks and 16 classic tracks. Mario Kart Wii has the same amount of tracks, and included in it’s classic tracks are 4 from the DS Mario Kart. One of the original tracks, Moo Moo Meadows, is also pretty much a remake of Moo Moo Farm from the Nintendo 64. Maybe I’m crazy for thinking so, but shouldn’t the Wii version of the game have maybe more tracks to play through than the DS version? The Cube version also had 32 tracks. Is this really all that we can expect from the Mario Kart franchise in the future? Just 16 new tracks? Plus Double Dash had more multiplayer modes and DS featured an online mode that doesn’t have all the features of Mario Kart Wii, but it’s pretty close.

So let’s break it down:

The Scores:
Game Modes: BELOW AVERAGE (features have been cut or haven’t seen upgrades over previous titles)
Graphics: GREAT
Sound: GREAT
Control/Gameplay: GOOD
Replayability: VERY GOOD
Balance: AWFUL
Originality: AWFUL
Addictiveness: POOR
Appeal: ABOVE AVERAGE
Miscellaneous: POOR

Final Score: Mediocre

Short Attention Span Summary:
yeager-1.jpgMario Kart Wii has some good things going for it. The Wii Wheel is a lot fun on the lower CC races, there are a handful of good new tracks, and we finally have an online console Mario Kart. However the extremely unbalanced item system, features that have been cut, and disappointing online system all add up to an experience that’s more frustrating than it is fun. I can’t recommend buying Mario Kart Wii when for the same price you could likely pick up both Double Dash and Mario Kart DS, either of which are much better Mario Kart experiences than Mario Kart Wii.

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