Monday, May 5, 2008

Two steps forward, three steps back: Mario Kart Wii review

I'll start off by saying this- Mario Kart Wii is the only game I can think of with so many flaws that's still worth your time and money. I know that sounds odd, so let me explain the flaws before I give my final opinion.

Impersonal- The game lacks any character whatsoever. The menus are sterile and the experience is strictly straightforward.

Questionable speed classes- Why is vehicle choice limited by speed class? Sure, you can race the fastest CC in either vehicle, but 50CC is out for bikes and 100CC is out for karts. I honestly can't think of one good reason to force such a limitation.

Sadistic single player- Say what you will about skillz, there is little reason to claim anything above a third place rank until you reach the second half of the final lap. With 12 characters racing now, first place is punished massively simply for being ahead. Expect three blue shells and a couple doses of lightning to knock you into dead last just before the end of most of your races.

Bikes too slippery- This won't be a flaw for some folks, since I'm sure it's a matter of preference, but most of the bikes are far too slippery for my tastes. Using manual drift is a nightmare on these crotch rockets.

Too much bump- I get the bumping can be tactical, but the distance I get tossed mid-jump by baby Mario in a stroller (off a cliff, of course) is often just shy of ludicrous.

Maps are blah- While the layout and playability of most of the maps is great (I dig the new quarter pipe jumps a lot), I fail to understand how a next-gen remake of a Game Cube map can feature less detail or character than the original. Even the 64 maps are questionably "improved."

Some classics not so classic- While much of the retro cup races are dandy, there are a few horrid repeats that didn't belong in the games they were originally featured in to begin with. WTF?

Red shells are too inconsistent- Sometimes they'll hone in on your target with deadly accuracy. Sometimes they'll go straight fifty yards before veering left for no reason whatsoever and slamming into a wall. Sometimes they'll shoot out in front of your kart, stop, and let you hit them...It's a mystery to me.

Crippled online- With the amount of parental controls available, why are older gamers still being hindered so little Timmy doesn't race, talk to and sleep with Mr. McFeelie? What good is parental control if there's no reason to use it? While online races are a blast, the inability to talk to my opponents is unforgivable.

I miss classic battle- While team battle is nice (though coin runners is pretty useless), why don't we have the option to participate in a classic battle mode? Twelve racers, three balloons each, last racer standing wins. Now THAT would be a battle.

The wheel is only a distraction- While I'm sure I'll plug in the Wii-mote every now and again just for the hell of it, the included plastic peripheral is unnecessary (as are the majority of those being shoved down our throat by the big N). Twisting and jerking your arms around simply can't compare to the precision of analog control.

There's more, but I think you get the idea. While adding a few nice touches here and there, the design team also managed to break a few things that already worked just fine.

Aside from my gripes however, multi-player (both online and off) is still top-notch fun for the whole family. I'll continue with single player just to "gold out" my license and unlock everything, but otherwise, it's multi-player or bust for this gamer.

Multi-player races are far more balanced and, when you're losing, you at least know it's to someone better than you rather than feeling like you're being pummeled by AI with a twisted love for pain and suffering.

This is not the best Kart experience by far, but it had undeniable potential to be exactly that. With a few fixes here and there, Mario Kart Wii: ii could be one of the best things to ever happen to the racing genre.

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