I was thinking what to initially write about Mario Kart Wii because the game is explained in a single sentence: Mario Kart with motion control and Nintendo Wi-Fi play. I’m fairly certain people who read Siliconera are familiar with Mario Kart and Mario Kart Wii doesn’t deviate from the formula. Nintendo even took the time to specify where the racetracks in Mario Kart Wii originated from. Did I just buy the same game again? (I’m joking.)
There are some tweaks to the core in the form of motorcycles and extra items. The giant mushroom power-up from New Super Mario Brothers makes a debut and it makes your character grow large enough to trample other drivers. The POW Block makes all other racers spin as if they hit a banana peel and drop their item. The thundercloud places a smiling ball of water vapor above your racer. You have a limited amount of time to “pass” it to another racer by touching them. If you don’t handoff the jovial cloud it shocks you.
Motorcycles are an alternative to go karts, but besides parameters bikes use the same controls with one exception. You can do wheelies by tilting the Wii Wheel or the remote in the nunchuck/remote control scheme. Wheelies give you a speed burst, but temporarily remove steering while your front tire is airborne. I guess the other advantage bikes have is squeezing in between cars, but the tracks are so wide you probably won’t need to do this often.
Speaking of the tracks, Mario Kart Wii has 16 new ones. DK's Snowboard Cross is one of my favorites. This course is essentially a giant half pipe. In the middle, a dense clump of snow is dumped right in the center of the racetrack. This forces players to head towards the lip and leap into the sky. While in the air you can pull the WiiWheel towards you to do a trick that grants a speed boost. For a brief moment Mario Kart Wii feels like Mario Snowboarding in DK’s Snowboard Cross. My friend enjoyed Moo Moo Meadows because she thought the wandering cows were cute.
The girl who joined me for the Mario Kart Wii unwrapping isn’t a “gamer”. She owned a Game Gear when she was a kid, but rarely plays video games now. By rarely I mean it’s only because I’m playing them. Anyways, she was over and Mario Kart Wii was there so we tried it out together. I handed the wheel to her and explained, “It’s just like driving a car, but you hold the 2 button down to accelerate.” She gave me a smirk and said, “Driving?” She doesn’t drive either. Years of excellent public transportation and expensive parking fees give her no reason to.
Mario Kart Wii was going to be a test on two levels. How easy would it be for someone who doesn’t play games and doesn’t drive to pick up? We did a team race for the first round and lost to the CPU controlled team. She didn’t complete the race. Actually, she spent part of the time driving in reverse and hitting walls. I think the problem was she kept overturning the wheel. Instead of gently tilting the wheel she was nearly turning it 90-degrees. She was disappointed that we lost and wanted to practice on her own. We went to the single player mode where she chose the Koopa shell cup. Looking back I should have suggested the Mushroom cup since it’s the easiest circuit. However, she was already driving and I didn’t want to unnecessarily “correct” her. I thought it didn’t really matter what course she learns on as long as she has fun. Her second time playing she did much better, earning 7th place on Peach’s Beach. More importantly she was having fun. It’s always refreshing to see things through a fresh set of eyes. In less than ten races she got the hang of Mario Kart Wii with two first place finishes in a row. I guess Mario Kart Wii really is easy to learn.
We started doing team races again, but since there was only one WiiWheel. I wasn’t about to yank it from her so I plugged in a Gamecube controller. Contrary to Nintendo’s fact sheet I haven’t noticed any moves that cannot be done with a Gamecube pad. The motions for wheelies and jump actions have been remapped to the D-pad. Awkward placement, but it’s better than alternative, excluding the moves from classic control schemes. This is one of the reasons why I enjoy using the WiiWheel more than the Gamecube controller. Simulated driving is the other. It’s amusing to turn the wheel around as if you were in an actual go kart. To be fair I’m not hyper competitive when it comes to Mario Kart. Your experience may vary if you’re racing against ghosts or a bitter rival. I appreciate how Nintendo gives players a choice between the two control schemes. Essentially, you can choose how to have fun with Mario Kart Wii, which makes the game incredible accessible.
After one night I got her hooked on Mario Kart.
Images courtesy of Nintendo.