by: David Sanchez
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 5/25/2012
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Mario Kart Wii isn't a bad game, but its overly streamlined mechanics, lackluster track design, and annoying gameplay quirks keep it from being as great as it could have been.
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Mario and Pals Race Again - Mario Kart Wii Review
Over the years, Mario Kart has taken on different forms. Super Mario Kart was a highly satisfying game that provided a great level of challenge. The Nintendo 64 provided a more accessible entry in the franchise with Mario Kart 64. Then there’s Mario Kart DS, which featured some of the greatest track design the series has ever seen. Mario Kart Wii is the latest installment of the long-running franchise, and it simplifies the series’ formula, making the game accessible to anyone. While this is good for young and casual gamers, it almost feels like Nintendo didn’t have the die-hard fans in mind when they made this game.
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Mario Kart Wii Gameplay
All of the key elements of the Mario Kart series are back once again for this Wii entry in the series. You’ve got item blocks, more speed boosts than before, multiplayer modes, and all the Mario-themed antics that you could expect from the series. But it almost feels like something is missing here. This is due to the game’s overall design. In the past, racers who were trailing behind got a hold of stronger power-ups such as Golden Mushrooms, Stars, and that infernal Spiny Shell. That remains the same here, but is magnified to the nth degree. You can be in the lead, dominating the other racers for the majority of the race, only to get hit by a Spiny Shell, losing your place and finding it hard to recover. This design is frustrating and basically means that skill isn’t really required to win races, and it happens so often that it quickly becomes a nuisance.
The game’s track design also leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe it’s the franchise’s aging formula, but the courses in Mario Kart Wii don’t feel as inspired as those in Mario Kart DS. Granted that game had some of the best track design in the series, but Mario Kart Wii’s courses aren’t even on par with other earlier entries. There are a few winners here and there such as Coconut Mall, Mushroom Gorge, and Koopa Cape, but many of the other courses just fall short of expectations. Luckily, the game features a number of classic tracks from throughout the Mario Kart series, and these are easily some of the most enjoyable courses to race through.
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Mario Kart Wii Online Mode
One of the best things going for Mario Kart Wii is its outstanding online multiplayer component. You can take Mario Kart Wii online and get races and battles going with a group of racers from around the world. It doesn’t take too long to connect, and this mode is easily the main reason to play Mario Kart Wii. You can battle or race friends as well, though you’ll have to deal with Friend Code restrictions. Still, even with its minor hitches, playing Mario Kart Wii online is a highly satisfying affair.
In addition to the multiplayer component, gamers who download the Mario Kart Channel to their Wiis are able to take on a number of challenges similar to the missions from Mario Kart DS. You can try to set records against other players and upload ghost data for Time Trial mode, which adds to the competitiveness of the game.
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Mario Kart Wii allows you to use any control scheme imaginable. You can use the Wii Remote turned sideways, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination, the Classic Controller, and the GameCube controller. Each of these options works well, and you can even use the Wii Wheel, which is basically a plastic wheel-shaped shell for holding your Wii Remote. Using this setup works well, and the game’s motion controls are very solid. Some gamers will prefer one of the other more standard control methods, but those who take the time to get used to the Wii Wheel will find steering by turning the peripheral a suitable replacement for analog stick controls.
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Mario Kart Wii is a very nice game to look at. Each of the game’s tracks just oozes with colorful Mario charm. Everything is bright and smooth, and there are some nice visual effects thrown into the game. Additionally, giant mushrooms, big trees, pleasant backgrounds, and other noticeable landmarks adorn each of the game’s tracks, making for some very pleasing aesthetic design.
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Sadly, the same cannot be said about the game’s sound design. Hearing Mario and company nonsensically shout their usual mumbo jumbo is an entertaining and comical aspect of the Mario Kart series, and that remains true here. However, the game’s music is very poorly designed, and there are no real standout themes. Mario Kart games in the past have featured catchy soundtracks that may not be the most impressive, but certainly provide a number of hum-worthy songs. Mario Kart Wii has no such soundtrack, and the only enjoyable music is that of the classic tracks’.
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Mario Kart Wii has a number of modes to keep you entertained for a long time. Grand Prix, Time Trial, and Battle all make their return, and you can take Mario Kart Wii online to clock in more hours of gameplay. You likely won’t play the new Battle mode for too long, though, because the free-for-all rules of past entries have been stripped for a Battle experience that’s entirely team-based. This is underwhelming to say the least, and a real disappointment. Still, you can have fun with the game in other ways, and as previously stated, playing Mario Kart Wii online is the main draw.
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Mario Kart Wii Review - Overall Score
Mario Kart Wii is a fun game that suffers mainly due to its track design, overly streamlined gameplay, and unfair mechanics that throw skill out the window. It’s sad that the courses in the game aren’t nearly as well designed as the ones found in Mario Kart DS, but even with their lackluster design, it’s still fun to race through the 16 new tracks.
Mario Kart Wii isn’t the best game in the series. From a gameplay standpoint, it might even be considered the worst game. Still, that doesn’t take away the fact that it’s a lot of fun to take Mario and his friends (and enemies) through a series of races in the Mushroom Kingdom. And with an online mode that's robust and functional, it’s hard not to recommend the game to anyone looking for some fun multiplayer action. Just don’t expect to win this race based on your skill.