in my effort to wrap up the mario kart series i finally sat down and finished off the 150cc cups of mario kart wii. i’ve actually played that game more than any other game in the series due to playing it over WFC with my nephew, but i hadn’t spent much time on the single-player mode.
in playing the other games in the series i’ve accepted the amount of randomness of items due to their casual, party-game nature, but since overall the items helped me more than hindered and some amount of skill was still required to get first overall it didn’t bother me too much. unfortunately, the same cannot be said for this game, the sixth in the series. aside from there being new items that are pretty much redundant (namely the POW block and the mega mushroom), the main problem with this entry is that the number of drivers has been upped from 8 to 12. this actually ends up doubling the amount of chaos, and although it means that something is happening all the time, the amount of attacks flying around you as you try to make your way through the course is just way too much and shifts the balance of the game way further to the random and luck-based side and away from the skill-based side. at the 50cc and 100cc (easy and medium) levels of difficulty this is barely tolerable, but at the 150cc level this lack of “fairness” just makes the game supremely frustrating and tedious (apparently i’m not alone in this: see this thread for a sample of similar reactions). at times i thought about giving it up as a lost cause, but i did end up getting all the gold trophies for 150cc, although i shudder to think of how much time would be spent trying to get all *** stars for every 150cc cup.
despite all the annoyance, the game does have some new and redeeming features. the most obvious of these is the motion controls. the wii wheel is a sturdy accessory and really enhances the gameplay, and the motion-based driving works perfectly and feels very natural. there’s a new trick mechanic (activated by shaking the wiimote when you drive off of a bump or ramp) that provides a mini speed boost, and drifting is now based on time which thankfully removes the ability to snake. bikes make their debut, although they don’t make a huge difference, and courses now feature half-pipe-like ramps that launch you high into the air. some of the new courses are quite memorable (coconut mall is an obvious new classic), and there are a handful of new characters. the graphics aren’t much different than the gamecube version, but the wi-fi modes are silky smooth. the unlockables place a much greater emphasis on time trials, and although it doesn’t have a mission mode like the DS version, the game includes wi-fi tournaments instead.
all in all the level of frustration due to the chaos of having 12 drivers makes this more painful than pleasurable, and thus ends up fairly low on my ranking of the mario kart series. only one more to go, mario kart 7 on 3ds. stay tuned …
not so chaotic mario kart wii links:
– the entry at mariowiki.com has everything you need to know inc. info about the courses, drivers, and unlockables
– official site at nintendo.com: includes a few wallpapers
– list of the wi-fi tournaments
– iwata asks feature
– review at videogamecritic.net
– coffeewithgames.com takes a look at how the game was ranked with critics and customer reviews compared to the rest of the series
– entertaining video of a guy playing that is pretty much a steady stream of the type of stuff that was going through my head while i was playing the game