Last weekend we picked up Mario Kart for the Wii for a fiver after trading in two games that we neither liked nor played (Wabbit Wampage? Cars?) and I must say it was the best fun I’ve had since I bought the device (over a year ago) and discovered Wii Sports.
The game isn’t as ‘fast’ or ‘frenetic’ as playing the game in the Arcades (which was also a lot blurrier and more confusing) but it’s hard to beat for playability especially when the other racers are friends of yours (or friends of friends).
In addition to the single player ‘Win the Cups, unlock the racers’ game, you can have up to 4 players on one Wii (as long as you have enough controllers) and you can also play on the WFC network getting up to 8 human racers either from your friends list (requiring the sharing of a Kart friend code) or playing against the multitudes of people out there in the real world.
Races, battles and coin collecting games were all good fun. I’d played half a dozen games at the weekend which meant I wasn’t totally unprepared for the game and Paul showed me some tricks (like the jump boosts, firing backwards etc) while we waited for Lee to plug his Wii into his projector at home. Once in, selection of games was very easy and there was little or no latency in the service.
Last night I hooked up with Paul, Lee and Tanya to play Wii Karting. Lee and Tanya were at home in London on Lee’s Wii showing that two people can play online from one Wii. Two people or more playing on one 32″ TV is not the best experience and can be somewhat confusing so I applaud Lee’s idea of hooking up to a projector. It would make a difference. Paul and I were online from home – him in Mallusk, me in Bangor.
The ‘signpost’ communication method isn’t the best however with only a limited number of phrases available so it’s not taking advantage of the social vibe that the ‘Mii’ avatars could provide. Maybe at some point in the future they’ll provide voice chat but that’s in the future and not right now. I’m told tales that some enterprising folk are using their XBox systems as voice chat relays so they can play Mario Kart and laugh at each other. We were all Mac people so we fired up iChat (voice) and regaled each other with insults and guffaws as we dumped turtle shells, bombs and banana skins on the other racers. I reckon Skype voice would work just as well.
As for racing itself – it seems slow when watching someone playing but it gets very quick when in the race and you know you’re half a lap behind and every corner counts. The game balance is helped by the use of “weapons” like the banana skins I mentioned and homing turtle shells and other methods of wiping out other people. Every time you get hit, or stunned, or squashed or shrunken it slows you down and the sound effects are excellent.
The tracks also, range from odd to excellent and in fact none of them are bad in any way. There’s a lot of colour and some people may feel seasick with it (luckily I don’t suffer from that), there’s enough variety and obstacles to keep it from being a dry race and it seems to push the Wii in terms of what it is capable of.
Is it worth getting the wheel? I don’t know. I’ve played it with the wheel and with a third party half wheel and I think that it might be worthwhile not getting the wheel unless you want the whole experience.
All in all, it’s an excellent game and my interest in it is magnified by the potential for playing online against friends.