24 36 Hours Into Mario Kart Wii
posted by April 27 at 1:29 AMon
It’s a sunny day, so my deeper impressions will have to wait (I’ll update this post with more later). In the meantime, for those of you Slog gamers wondering whether or not to buy the Mario Kart Wii game that hits stores tomorrow… well, I don’t have a resounding recommendation here. On the downside, the game comes off as a rush job—the art design is pitiful, the number of new tracks is sad, and any four-player play runs choppily enough to be a distraction. In the good news dept, though, there’s a new karts-versus-bikes element that is balanced and deep, and the online mode is quick—both in how little time it takes to start a game and how smoothly it plays. As of right now, the thumb teeters upward, if ever so slightly. More to come.
Update: Honestly, the above is about it. Mario Kart’s been the same combat-racing video game for years now, and the only real changes to this version are tweaks to make it more newbie-friendly—wider racetracks, easier boosts of speed, better chances of recovering if you get stuck in last-place. These are the things that have made Mario Kart Wii a total hit in hours-long four-player frenzies from the past few nights with my non-gamer posse, and that’s not to say the skill has been sucked out of this one. Better put, the game’s barrier to entry, which had risen in fanboy-payoff versions of the past few years, has come back down to earth, and unless you’re a sullen cretin who can’t stand a random loss, the game’s the better for it.
To be fair, when I first saw footage and reviews of this game, I’d resigned myself to hating it. MKW looks like the same old game Nintendo has shoveled up for years, and in many respects, it is. But even when Nintendo phones one in, they still pull off surprises, like MKW’s spread of oddball racetracks, refinement of the party-racing formula, and—I cannot stress this enough—replay value that comes from the first half-decent online mode in a Wii game. It’s not Xbox Live, and childproof “friend codes” make setting up friend-only matches a pain in the ass, but for a online racing game with no monthly fees, this one’s something else. MKW is probably priced $20 too high—this is a rushed version of Mario Kart’s Greatest Hits, after all—but compared to fanboy-crazy Super Smash Bros, you might actually convince buddies and significant others to play along. Since the rest of the Wii’s party-games catalog is a wasteland, you could do worse than this shameless-yet-refined retread.
Coming soon — Grand Theft Auto IV. My copy arrives Monday, and I look forward to rubbing my, er, nine-hour head start in your noses.