Decided to pick up "Mario Kart Wii" while I was waiting for my copy of Wii Fit to arrive. Finding a copy was pretty difficult. About a week after release, there was still plenty of stock in both shops and online stores over here.
However, another week later and it was pretty much sold out. Fortunately I just happened to find one store online that still had it then and that was DVD.co.uk which was where I ordered my Wi-Fi Max adaptor from. Ordered it one morning, dispatched the same day then received it a day later. Very impressed. Some stores like Amazon have it back in stock now but elsewhere stores appear to be still waiting for stock.
So here's the contents of the small box (compared to DDR Hottest Party anyway!). The wheel shaped shell and the game itself.
The back of the wheel with the Wii logo. It's not used as a button for the horn by the way. It's just there for looks.
The front of the wheel where you set the Wiimote. There's four small bits of rubber, one at each corner to hold it in and a hole to slip the strap through.
Usual ruler there for scale. Wiimote fits snugly in.
Upon starting the game you have to run a mini update which means I probably won't be able to use the Freeloader after this but, the Gecko Region Free loader might still work.
Loading up the game, empty files are represented as "licences" and you can start a new one by picking one of your Miis.
I gave the single player "Grand Prix" a run first with the wheel. The build quality feels very good but I still find it odd turning it in mid-air. It's like tilting the Wiimote in Wii Play's "Charge!" really. It takes some getting used to since you can find yourself overturning but it's generally responsive. You hold down the '2' button to accelerate, '1' for manual drift and the D-pad to use items.
You can also shake the Wiimote to do tricks while in mid-air for small speed boosts or if you're on the new bikes, you can give it a quick flick upwards to do a wheelie making it run even faster. It's a nice addition to the strategy part of the game because players end up hunting for the right spots on the tracks to perform the tricks. If you do perform a wheelie though, it'll cancel itself when you turn or will slow down almost to a halt if you bump into anything but, I still prefer using the new bikes than the carts.
And because of the above techniques, the common "snaking" where users gained quick boosts by drifting from side to side all the way through the match doesn't work anymore. Now it depends on how long you hold a drift which doesn't require quite as much skill to use. I think it's actually better this way because it's only fun when everyone's playing more or less the same way.
Playing through the cups has been as fun as when I started playing the DS game with its new maps like the bouncy Mushroom Canyon. There's a total of sixteen new maps and sixteen remakes from older versions of the game. Fun new power ups like the Mega Mushroom that lets you run over any territory and squash opponents, the Pow Block that shakes everyone before you and the unlucky Lightning Cloud are also fun new additions.
After getting used to the game, I decided to try online and just like Mario Strikers I hardly noticed any lag. It was pretty impressive considering my Wii is connected wirelessly, about thirty metres away from the router and I was playing against twelve other players over the internet!
There's two modes to play, "VS Mode" or "Battle Mode". For either one you can either go online yourself or, have another friend join you together which is a great feature. Unlike the DS game however, it appears you queue up for games if there are spaces free which can take about a minute. Most of the time you'll find yourself connecting to a game immediately, though. When you are waiting, you actually get to watch one of the games being played. Unfortunately, the camera is always focused on the first player. It would have been a plus if you could switch to other players too.
Once it's time for your turn, you can either select a track or let the computer select one for you. Everyone else will be doing the same and once that's done, the computer runs through the list to select a track. Unlike the DS game where a winner is chosen after four races you can just play on for as long as you like here. You can find yourself playing the same people or it's constantly changing as the twelve slots are filled up with people leaving and joining.
As much fun as I thought it would be, the action can get a bit overly hectic at times. Especially when everyone grabs an item right at the start of races. It doesn't take long for the first player to fall last early in the races. However, once you've got used to it it can be fun enough.
Although your wins and losses are recorded in your file, you don't actually see them the same way you do on the DS. What you get instead are ranking points which start off with 5000. Depending on what place you get in the races, you'll earn or get points deducted. I think this makes it hard to know how good the other players you're up against are to be honest and somehow it's not as satisfying as the old way of displaying stats. If the competition actually ended or the points you earned were actually used in the rankings the same way Mario Strikers does I think it would be more compelling.
Other than that, Nintendo has done a good job of presenting the online part of the game, showing players' Miis on a world map when you're joining a game. And if having the best time trial record is what you're interested in then there's rankings for that complete with ghost data available for download. There's even a handy channel that you can optionally install so that you won't have to switch discs just to check the rankings.
There's also supposed to be competitions but, I have yet to get notified of any via WiiConnect24. Perhaps it will happen once the game launches in America on Monday. I'm interested to see the events that take place.
Needless to say, a lot of the tracks are from previous versions of the game including the DS such as Delfino Square (which seems to be very popular with online players). However, there are quite a number of new ones such as Wario's Mine and the Coconut Mall where you'll find your console's Miis on posters and driving cars. A pretty amusing touch. Eventually you can use your own Mii in the races too.
Everything original to Mario Kart Wii looks almost as great as Mario Galaxy in the graphics department although you can see they cut down the details on the character models when the camera closes in. Coupled with this are some familiar music and sound effects which sometimes get pretty repetitive such as the cries of joy when you perform a trick mid-air. The music's not bad but there's nothing that stands out like the Observatory track from Mario Galaxy.
Mario Kart Wii offers some solid new content with its bikes and selection of moves that you can pull off. Its single player experience gives a fair challenge at 150cc but I think the online experience could be better even though it runs very smoothly as it is. That said, there's plenty of replayability in the game with its online content. They should really have just kept the wheel separate, though.
- Great visuals and soundtrack for the Wii.
- The new speed boost tricks such as the "Wheelie" are fun.
- Fun new items to use such as the "Mega Mushroom".
- 12 player online racing mayhem with people around the world!
- Can invite another player to race online together on the same Wii.
- Can join a friend who is already racing online.
- Downloadable ghost data to race against.
- A separate channel notifies you about new competitions.
- Competitions feature original content and slightly altered tracks.
- Smooth online play.
- Using the wheel feels like playing "Charge!" in Wii Play.
- Being first online can mean taking a lot of "punishment".
- Rank points aren't used for ranking. Feels kind of pointless.
- Only track completion times are used in rankings.
- No online knockout tournament competitions.
- No special results screen for competitions.