Saturday, May 3, 2008

This week's column

'Mario Kart Wii' is a joy ride

Whenever Nintendo comes out with a new console, there's always one game that never fails to deliver. "Mario Kart Wii" is the latest installment in the "Kart" series, and has everything fans have come to expect.

Nintendo has also bridged the gap between its games and the rest of the free world — you can now successfully use the Internet to play against anyone around the globe. Joining a match takes no time at all, and I haven't experienced any lag issues. This is a welcome improvement from the problems plaguing the online modes in "Super Smash Brothers Brawl."

Nintendo gave fans a little something extra this time — the Wii Wheel. The Wii Wheel, a round plastic case, turns your Wii-mote controller into a tiny steering wheel. The wheel controls are sensitive, but not hard to figure out. There are two basic competitive modes in "Kart": the Grand Prix and Battle Modes. Both allow players to attack each other with different objects, such as turtle shells, or zoom past each other using items that give them turbo boosts.

There are also 12 starting characters, which inexplicably include Baby Princess Peach and Baby Mario.

Players race through 32 levels, half of which are new. You can "drift" around curves in automatic or manual modes. Automatic should be fine for new players, but anyone whose been around the track knows you get more out of manual controls. The ability to use mini turbo-boosts is essential to the game, but Nintendo has done away with the controversial phenomenon known as "snaking." The maneuver, used heavily in the DS version of "Kart," allowed players to use multiple turbo boosts on a straight track. Some players called it an unfair advantage. I never had an opinion about snaking either way, but at least now I won't have to hear people whining about it on Internet message boards.

Battle mode involves players shooting one another for coins or popping each other's balloons. These were always my favorite parts of the older games and its no different here.

The trouble with "Kart" is it doesn't stand out from its predecessors. The graphics are fine for the Wii, but they don't blow me away. Unlocking characters is nothing new. Each character has more karts to chose from, but so what? It's essentially the same game it's always been.

Wii Wheel aside, "Kart" loses points for its lack of innovation. That's why I'm giving it four buttons out of five.

Programming note

Beginning next week, this column will move to Thursday's Escapes page. My goal is to write one every week even during the annual summer video game drought. There are still so many deliciously bad games I haven't played, so I have some catching up to do.

Oh, and the new "Call of Duty 4" maps are out. I've played them all, but my favorite by far is "Creek." It's $10 well-spent.


Chris Pittman said...

I am quite pleased with how Mario Kart turned out for the Wii. I haven't had much time to play it yet (thanks GTA), but the new tracks are very solid. I am especially impressed with Koopa Cape and Maple Treeway.

The biggest surprise has been the Wii Wheel. Sure, it's just a simple piece of plastic that holds the Wii Remote, but it makes the game so much more fun. I had all but given up on the thing before actually giving it a shot.

I've heard that the online portion of the game is working very well. I'm thrilled to hear this after the headache that was Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Dan Whisenhunt said...

Yeah, the online portion is very smooth. No trouble at all.