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Review: Mario Kart - Wii

by Nick Haywood on 18 April 2008, 16:58

Tags: Mario Kart Wii, Nintendo (TYO:7974), Wii, Racing

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I think at this point we should get all the ‘firsts’ out of the way. And by ‘firsts’ I mean all the ‘exciting new features’ that everyone is so busy fapping themselves into a stupor about. To start with, being able to use your Mii in a race is initially quite cool. But this quickly becomes irritating as the noises your Mii makes as you get a powerdrift boost or land a hit with a power-up start to wind you up. I don’t sound like a depressed monkey on helium… leastways not unless I’m depressed and sucking helium and having my Mii punctuation the race with nasal ‘Woohoo’s and ‘Awww’s is just annoying.

Next up is the inclusion of motorbikes. Now it’s obvious that Nintendo have done some careful balancing here to keep the racing fair whether you’re using a bike or a kart, which is fine but then kinda begs the question, why bother? If there’s no real advantage between a bike and a kart, why have the choice? And here’s where I think Nintendo have missed a trick.

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Bikes are naturally quick to accelerate and, unless it’s one mother of road beast, more agile around corners… so why not make the bikes that way? They could be nippier off the start line, have a higher top speed but bleed loads of speed off in the corners meaning though they turn tighter they go slower through the bends, giving the karts a chance to catch up.

As it is though, choosing bikes or karts makes no difference in how you’ll place unless you start choosing different classes of both, from the standard all-rounder through to the speed demon with crap acceleration. And of course you’ll still come off worse if bumped by an opponent in a higher weight category than yourself… which, as we’ll see, can get seriously annoying.

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So what about the power-ups? Well our old favourites are here such as the homing red shells, the first place killer blue spikey shell and of course the bananas… but there seems to be a distinct lack of the character specific specials that were so cool on the GC version. In their place we’ve got the POW box that after two warning thumps spins everyone out making them drop their items and the Bob-bomb which, if you’re struggling back in 12th place, turns you into a massive bullet and auto-navigates the course for you at extreme speed.

And, before we get to the racing itself, there’s the power-drift boost which has had a bit of tweaking. Some vehicles, such as the bikes, can only get a first stage blue-flame boost as can some of the higher speed karts. This is to keep things fair with the lower performance karts that can get the longer burst of orange flame boost if you hold the drift long enough. On top of this, any character in any kart or bike can perform tricks off a jump, giving them a boost on landing, which is always handy. Oh, and bikers can perform wheelies too, which gives a bit of a speed burst as well.

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Now that’s all the new stuff out of the way, let’s have a look at how Mario Kart plays.