Mario Kart Wii - Nintendo Wii Review

Not exactly a new game, and not even a new game to me - I've owned it since this came out. So why the review now? Well, I haven't shown my Wii much (any) love since Metroid: Other M and before that, Red Steel 2. But, there's another reason I decided to write about this game. We had some friends come out the other night, and we broke this game out and had an absolute blast with it.

Some context - a group of about 5 or 6 of us regularly hung out at one particular friend's place in college. The standard games we would play were some combination of Madden, Tecmo Bowl, Golden Eye and Mario Kart 64. Many a weekend was lost to that couch and those particular games while beer and wings were consumed in plentiful portions.

Fast-forward to the other night, and we broke out Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 64. Thing is, the appeal of this game goes well beyond nostalgia. My kids and wife played too. The next morning my son and youngest daughter were up before us, playing online and trying to hone their skills for the next day's play. We had a really good time, so here goes:

Graphics - 8:

This series has never been a graphical powerhouse, but the Mario charm shows through and is inviting to younger gamers and older ones alike, as evidenced by our weekend experience with it. There's not as many animations, shadows, lighting effects as true racing games, but it does hum along without tearing and stuttering, keeping the game flowing at a rapid, smooth pace that keeps the fun factor high. Textures and details are a bit low most of the time as a result, but I love the vibrant colors throughout.

Sound & Music - 8:

Limited voices, decent music if perhaps less-than-amazing. It's generally up-tempo and fits what you're doing in the game. Sound effects are just varied enough to keep from getting monotonous. I actually like how well some of the sounds coming out of the controller work. That in particular was clever use of the technology in my opinion, and it serves an actual purpose when it happens.

Gameplay - 8:

Good overall track variety and selection. Some of the throwbacks are a blast to see. The motorbikes are a nice addition and you have a bit more control in the air as you show off on big jumps. The online actually adds a ton of value to the game. I've never been much for solo-racing in the Mario Kart games, and with this feature, you don't have to. Still a pretty robust community from what I can see. I've read a lot of complaints about how the AI works - though honestly it doesn't bug me much. Sure, the person in last has the best chance of getting huge 'weapons' or abilities to try and cut into the lead, but it helps keep the game fun for everyone involved, even if one or two of the players are clearly better than the others. If you go into it with that expectation, it doesn't generally bother you much.

Intangibles - 8:

Online really helps here. Other modes like the various battles help as well. The game is a racer at heart, but sometimes it is fun just to go after one another as well on a course. The single player is okay, but honestly it just feels like training wheels for the online or local competitive modes.

Overall - 8:

It's not the best racing game out there. In many ways, Mario Kart is not even a racing game. There are vehicles on wheels, start and finish lines and timed laps are a factor - but there's a sort of playful combat mixed in and outlandish shortcuts and plenty of game modes to keep you busy. I still get a huge hit of nostalgia from playing Mario Kart 64 - but there is a lot to like in this version as well, as long as you go into it with your expectations properly aligned.



  1. ":I've read a lot of complaints about how the AI works - though honestly it doesn't bug me much. Sure, the person in last has the best chance of getting huge 'weapons' or abilities to try and cut into the lead, but it helps keep the game fun for everyone involved, even if one or two of the players are clearly better than the others. If you go into it with that expectation, it doesn't generally bother you much."

    I had read SO much about the AI and blue turtle shells, that I was expecting it when I started playing...but I gotta say, I'm ANNOYED with them.

    I already had to in and adjust the volume setting lower in the controller, because I got tired of the alarm sounding so much...and I'm only in the 50cc races!

    Can't say I'm feeling it very much right now, even though I tried the online, that seemed very first place was always "near" me on the map, but never spotted...which even Mrs. Coffee was like, "It shows him right on top of you, or in front of you, but he's not there."

    Not sure I'm feeling this one very much, but I'm still trudging through it...even though it's not on my backlog, go figure!

  2. I'm with coffee about the AI and blue shell. I've read why the devs put them there and go in with that mindset, but still get pissed off with the cheap kills. I don't mind any other item except 'ole blue and they really should have made it optional for custom races.

    I've almost completed the game with gold on every level, but still have a few to go. Overall it's been a great deal of fun in single player.

    On the other hand, people can say what they want about the Wii, but it's an absolute powerhouse when it comes to local group gaming. I haven't had a chance to do much of this, but when I have it's been an absolute blast and MKW is a perfect selection. (also followed up by some co-op World of Goo and Art Style: Orbient with all the lights off. I almost hear Steve Miller in fly like an eagle with orbient at 2am in a pitch black room)

    I haven't put much time in Online as the races always did seem a bit wonky for some reason. and then there's the friend code thing...

  3. I agree - the blue shell is definitely my least favorite, but there have always been leader-seeking shells in the series (though weren't they spiked in 64?) - but I think Robert's suggestion would be a good one - it might be nice to turn off special abilities in matches you don't want to see the powerup pop. Then again, you'd still be looking at 'default' settings for single player or online I imagine.

    For me, this game (and the other Mario Karts) have always been about playing with a group of friends, and while some of the power-ups are kind of cheap, it does make things more competitive. Otherwise, it would be my buddy L or myself winning every match, and I suspect others would get tired of playing. So, I admit I'm coming at it from a local group atmosphere in mind, because when I'm playing competitively online, I do admit sometimes it feels 'cheap' that you run a perfect race only to lose still.

    I also have to agree with Robert - my Wii has definitely become the system for local group games between Mario Party, Mario Kart, New Super Mario Bros, Smash Bros and prolly other titles I'm not thinking of right off-hand.

  4. Been thinking about this some over the past few days and more tonight with the Super Mario Kart post by GamesAndBiz. Bad part is that I don't know what would be better.

    The blue shell really gets on my nerves as I think it's a super cheap and crappy kill by the AI when you're trying to complete the game. (come on, I never get that many blue's when I'm not in the lead. they get them all the time!!!)

    Though your local gaming scenario with friends is a different picture. I can completely understand and even support the use of blue in that scenario. It keeps everyone in the race which is especially important when there are notable differences in skills levels. I can see it also being some pretty good trash talk fodder too. :)

    The term competitive mario kart is kind of a conundrum though. I know it's not f-zero or anything, but seems like that side of it should be tightened up a bit to make it fair.

    Guess just like some of the gripes with SC2 it boils down to having OPTIONS.

    ..and on that note I have a kitchen full of dishes and bottles to jump on. Better run.

    ps: Here's my MKWii friend code if we're ever both online: 2793-7340-2604 .

  5. Cool - will add the friend code to be sure. :) And yeah, I think the options would be the key, because I can see while it serves a purpose among friends, in a more competitive light, it's less-than-ideal.


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