Mario Kart review

4 out of 5
£35

For

Gorgeous cartoony looks, fantastic online multiplayer, excellent gameplay

Against

Frame-rate suffers in split screen, wheel a touch awkward

It has been a long time coming, but finally the Wii has some Mario (and friends) karting action on the Nintendo Wii. Initially expected as one to hit shortly after the Wii finally reached our shelves, it’s been a long 18 months for fans of the series unique brand of karting goodness.

After the lukewarm reception of Mario Kart: Double Dash on the GameCube, it took a fantastic handheld offering on the DS to restore faith in the long running series. The DS version tossed away many of the flaws that the series had been bloated with over the years, and went right back to sheer fun-packed racing.

This Wii version thankfully travels down the same route. Out go the dual racers, lengthy tracks, and huge vehicles. And in come tight, exciting courses, and the kind of driving-focused thrills that caused so many of us to love the earlier Mario Kart titles to such an incredible degree.

One large change from the other games is the inclusion of the plastic wheel that comes with the game. Obviously with the major Wii control method being so wildly different to what has come before, something brand new had to be introduced to give us the same kind of tight racing excitement we all adore.

The wheel itself works solidly enough. Once you’re used to spinning such an item through the air with no attachment to anything else, you’ll be drifting around corners with ease.

Its major downfall is the sheer lack of weight. Since it does have the unnerving feeing of twisting a small piece of plastic around, the action on-screen certainly doesn’t feel as tight or thrilling as it always has before. Thankfully you can utilise your classic controller or old GameCube pad to get a much tighter grip on your racers’ moves.

Single player goes down the traditional racing title route of unlocking racers, tracks, and vehicles as you progress through the game’s multiple cups. Though the initial 50cc races featuring purely karts feel relatively easy (though a perfect way to introduce newcomers to the series), once you jump up to 100cc, and finally 150cc with the addition of bikes too, you’ll realise that you need to be solidly on the ball to keep all two/four wheels on the track.

While the single-player mode might only last a handful of hours – though it’s a fun ride thanks to the intelligence of your opponents – it’s online that’s bound to offer the most fun. It only takes a few button presses, and a couple of seconds wait, and you’re right slap bang on the starting grid. It’s a testament to the potential of Nintendo’s online network that makes Mario Kart easily the greatest online racer (if you ignore PGR4) of the last few years.

On the track it’s much the same as always. You’ll be slip-streaming your opponents, picking up power-ups to obliterate your fellow racers, and simply enjoying all that the exciting courses and vehicles have to offer.

Verdict

For Mario Kart fans, this is a real trip back to top form. It’s great fun in single-player, but toss in the online options and you’ve an absolutely essential Wii purchase for anyone with any interest in driving fun.