It’s quite simple really, I felt like reviewing a Video Game and this here site here actually covers that particular niche better than mine (Obligatory shameless plug? Check.)
So we’re cool? Cool!
Ok, here’s the thing. My lovely wife is currently gone for a few days, working as a consulting Speech Pathologist in the Frozen Wastelands of Northern Quebec (I’m from Montreal if you don’t know me.) This leaves me to guard the fort with my two very adorable children: My 6 year old son and “4 and half” daughter.
Since my wife is out there getting paid consultant fees, I decided that we could afford some new games for our consoles (PS2 and Wii) and that it was my duty as caring father to provide my kids with quality interactive entertainment.
(Chatty pauses, expecting lightning to strike him while he weaves all that BS into a hopefully entertaining narrative.)
Long story short, we got Mario Kart Wii from the local EBGames (along with a Disney Princess Game and a DDR game.)
By the way, they were “selling” Mario Kart Wii for 10$ in exchange for a copy of Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Strikers or Mario Party 8. I don’t know if the Stateside EBGames offer this deal but it’s ongoing in Baconada (Obligatory Canadian Bacon reference? Check!)
The game comes with one ‘wheel’ which is nothing more than a plastic dock for your Wiimote with a hole behind it to allow the ‘B’ button to stick out and be accessible by the left hand’s ring or middle finger.
At first I was skeptic about the added value for the controlling device, although I also got a second wheel cradle so we’d have 2 for multiplayer. However, after the first 5 minutes, I was completely sold on the wheel; it just felt so natural.
In fact this totally plays into the geek’s tendency to ‘get into the game’ by moving the damn controllers along with the action on the screen (be honest, you did it with your SNES and Genesis!) I’m willing to bet it was one of the design philosophies of the Wiimote.
The game’s instruction also show you how to control the game with the Wiimote+Nunchuck, the ‘classic’ wii controller and the Gamecube controllers.
Once you start the game, it loses no time with a story or setup like Crash Bandicoot Tag-Team Racing, Mario Kart Wii is about racing games, not about quests and stories.
You’re asked to create a driver’s permit (my game is in French so I may get a few names wrong here as I translate freely) by associating it to one of your Miis.
Then you are given the choice of starting a 1 player race, start a local multiplayer race (2, 3 or 4 participants), start an online multiplayer game (with one or 2 local players) and browse the online community (needs to download a new Wii channel for that.)
This is my 1st exposition to the Mario Kart series (I was a Genesis to PS to PS2 owner before getting a Nintendo console), but it appears to me that this game is a tribute to the whole series as it features racetracks that bear the name of other consoles (like DS Delfino Village, or SNES Mario Autodrome.) I assume this means that the racetrack is an adaptation of one appearing in a prior version of the game.
The game is exceeding simple to play with the wheel. You accelerate with the “2″ button, you brake with “1″ when the game is on ‘Automatic Drift’ mode or the ‘B’ button when the game is on ‘Manual Drift’.
On automatic drift, you just have to steer your kart/motorcycle, catch power ups and outplay (or rather frustrate) your opponents with the, I assume, standard assortments of banana peels, Thunder clouds, Boost mushrooms and flying blue nuclear turtle shells.
On ‘manual drift, pressing the ‘B’ button while keeping the pedal to the metal (i.e. pressing the ’2′ button) causes your vehicle to drift without loosing speed. If you drift long enough, you get a mini turbo boost in speed. Drift quite a while longer (without driving off the track and falling to your doom) and you get a Super Mini boost… Kawai!
In fact as you climb the learning curve, you discover a bunch of ways to get speed boosts. For example, I recently discovered you could get one by making a jump and flicking the wheel at the right time.
I think “simple and cute” nails down the whole game’s philosophy. Everything is easy to do and looks fun.
For instance, the global multiplayer race is so easy and cute it’s almost painful to watch. You basically chose to start a regional, global or friends race and it builds itself in a manner of minutes.
As players join, you see the Earth spinning to the city where the player (represented by a Mii) joining your game is from. Real cute… in a good way!
That being said, simple does not translate in few features or a too easy game. While the first few races, battle games and such are easy enough for children to win (my daughter manages to pull wins in the 50 cc category), the later racetracks and AI opponents catch up with you and winning races is a lot harder.
(That being said, I’m a complete newbie so my technical expertise on the subject is very relative.)
I have played enough though to experiment that the game features an obvious Rubber Band AI (reference TVTropes.org? Check!). In the early game, If you end up being the last in a race, all “random” powerups you get are of the best kind (Bullet Bill or King Shroom Boost.) Later in the game, a single mistake takes you from 1st position to 10th in no time.
Also, getting hit by a power ups can and will cause you to lose races you worked very hard at, often in the final stretches. That’s a staple of the competitive Mario Games and this one is no exception.
Bottom line, the game is fun, easy to play and challenging. It’s a great family game when you need your car game fix but don’t want to have a 6 year old asking you embarrassing questions about stealing cars and beating up virtual hookers.
Well worth the 50$+10$ for a second Wheel.