Okay, this can’t really be a review since I’ve only had the game for 1 day, so more like first impressions.
It has to be said that I can’t remember the last time I put so many hours into a new game on the first day that I got it. Looking at my Wii diary it is frightening how long I have played it today, and that my friends is a good sign.
I think that first of all, I think that I should address the control of the game. Very much like SSBB you have a variety of controller options, however, what you also get is the Wii Wheel. I must admit that I was a bit dubious of the Wii Wheel, being a die hard old school Mario Kart fan, however, when I first started playing I gave the Wii Wheel a swirl, and found that I kept on using it for some time, completing all the initial 4 50cc cups using it. It works rather well for a piece of plastic and for novice Mario Kart gamers it is ideal (which is likely the idea of the thing), however, I then tried the Gamecube pad and since then haven’t looked back. Control of the game using the Wii Wheel is very, very good, much better than I had expected, but when I use the Gamecube controller I find that I perform much better, and for that reason alone, I am remaining “old school” when it comes to Mario Kart control.
There are a couple of points I want to make, however. It is very evident that Nintendo would prefer you to use the Wii Wheel. The game keeps a track of how long you use the Wheel and shows the players online who are using it. I have also seen people online with golden Wheel symbols (whatever the hell those mean). However, the most telling indication of this is the button layout for the Gamecube controller. To put it frankly, I could have come up with a better button layout. For some reason they have changed the Double Dash configuration and more annoyingly, assigned the tricks to the D pad. This means, whenever you want to perform a trick, or pull a wheelie, you need to let go of the control stick, which is both unnatural and frankly dumb. I have managed to get used to it, but I can think of better ways in which the pad could be configured and it is shame that you cannot change this. However, I still believe that I do much better with the Gamecube pad, despite these annoyances.
The main bulk of the game isn’t too far removed from Mario Kart DS, some new tracks, some old tracks, but then again I’ve never been one to complain about more Mario Kart. Saying that however, there is no denying that I am loving every second of it. Of the new tracks it is a varied bunch, some are great, others less so.
Next we come onto online. The Wii tends to pick up a lot of flack from the 360 and PS3 camps due to its basic online capabilities. Yes the friend codes are a pain, but I’m normally happy just to jump into a multiplayer game without having to worry about friend codes and for that Mario Kart does admirably. There is not lag, plenty of people to play against, be it racing or battles and the game has run flawlessly so far online for me. There are also a few neat touches, such as the fact that before a race it shows the Mii of who you are racing against, and also where they are based on a globe. Also, if the race is still in progress, you get to watch this.
The match making is also good. Everyone starts with a score of 5000 and depending on wins and losses, this score will increase or decrease. You are then matched against players similar to your score, ensuring that you are equally matched. This also gives you incentive to increase your score. There are also other neat online touches such as being able to race against other players ghost data, matching your time attack time against other people in the world (boy am I good at Bowsers Castle) and also online challenges (which are not active yet – but sound fun).
So overall I have been enjoying Mario Kart Wii just as much as I had hoped. As a Mario Kart Fanatic (which I guess I am) it is everything that I could have hoped for, apart from some slight niggles. It is also a game which is well suited to both casual and more hardcore gamers, now that snaking has been removed there isn’t the gap in skill that there once was, but at the same time, practice does make perfect.
Overall, two big thumbs up.