Those of you who know my penchant for video games of the cutesey Nintendo variety will not be surprised to learn that the new obsession in my life — referred to yesterday — is Mario Kart Wii.
What’s it all about? Well, you race your kart (or motorbike) against eleven other characters around a variety of tracks, including shopping malls, ski runs, beaches, haunted houses, evil castles, fields full of cows, gold mines; that sort of thing. Oh yes and in addition to trying to avoid getting knocked off the track by other drivers and avoiding the cows, moles, birds, goombas and Chain Chomps on the circuit, you also have power-up items to watch out for. These include mushrooms, tortoise shells of various colours, lightning bolts, stars, and even a big bullet. Oh, and you can play as any one of 18 characters including a toadstool, a ghost, and a baby gorilla, each of whom can choose from up to four different karts and bikes. Oh yes, and each time you hit a ramp you’re supposed to flick your controller to make your character perform a mid-air stunt, which repays you with a turbo boost of speed on landing.
One of the most important aspects of the gameplay is drifting. Drifting is basically a controlled skid that allows you to go round corners at full speed, kinda sideways, and it’s great fun. Take a look at the video to see what I mean.
It’s not easy explaining Mario games to people who haven’t played them. Of course if you’re a Mario player too then this will all sound very familiar. I’ve played Mario Kart on older consoles: SNES, N64, and Gamecube, but this is easily the best, for the following reasons:
- The Wii wireless controller snaps into a little plastic steering wheel, and you steer your kart by actually… yes… steering the wheel.
- There are twelve racers instead of the eight used in previous versions, and they are more aggressive and/or spiteful, making for a more fun — if infuriating — racing experience
- You can go online and race eleven other human players from all over the world.
This is a giant of a video game. There is so much depth, hidden shortcuts, individual tactics and strategies for each track that have to be learned, and gameplay that will always have you coming back for more, even if the last time you played you almost took a bite our of your steering wheel in frustration. The lower class 50cc and 100cc leagues are easy to beat but they’re good for learning all the circuits, but really the game is all about the fastest 150cc class. This is where the action really hots up and the computer-controlled characters get mean. Really mean.
You can keep your Grand Theft Auto’s and your Burnout Legends. This is the king of driving games.