Mario Kart Wii Updated Hands-On

We take one final look at the latest installment in Nintendo's legendary racing franchise before it hits stores.

With less than two weeks separating us from Mario Kart Wii's North American release, major announcements from Nintendo have all but dried up. Now all that's left for fans is to make it through the home stretch. Luckily for us, we got the chance to hold ourselves over by playing a near-final build of the game during Nintendo's Media Summit last week. Left to our own devices, we spent enough time playing to pick up on more than a few differences between this installment and the series' two most recent outings on Nintendo's DS and GameCube.

Donkey Kong is such a showboat.

In our first race, we went with Bowser on Mushroom Gorge. Straight out of the gate, we felt back in the world of Mario Kart, right down to the initial speed boost gained from hitting the gas button just after the countdown strikes two. Bowser felt like his usual self: heavy, not the easiest to control, but fast down the stretch, and able to bop smaller racers at a moment's notice. Soon after hitting the first batch of power-ups, we had our first encounter with the game's new indicator system. A little marker pops up on the screen when a bullet, red shell, or other dangerous projectile is quickly approaching you. If you're using the Wii Remote, you'll also receive a warning beep from the speaker in your hand.

Another heads-up is that fake power-ups are now more distinguishable from real ones thanks to their solid reddish hue that stands out from the rainbow coloring of the others. These new additions feel a little odd at first, but after a while you can't help realize why they're there. The field of competition has been boosted from 8 to 12, so with 50% more enemies to deal with, a few helpful tips on the screen can preserve your sanity over the course of three laps--as much as you can keep sane in the mad world of Mario Kart.

Mushroom Gorge's addition to the Mario Kart formula is a stretch of bouncy mushroom sections. At certain points in the track you'll drive off of the usual dirt road and find yourself on giant mushrooms sticking out from a bottomless abyss. These mushrooms come in red and green colors. The red ones bounce you high into the air when you land on them, whereas the green ones act as normal track. This increases the challenge by forcing you to bounce from one platform to another, all while trying to avoid a devastating midair bopping.

But in terms of new obstacles to deal with, Mushroom Gorge pales in comparison to some of the other new courses. Among the various hazards we had to deal with were the two-way escalators and NPC-controlled cars in Coconut Mall, conveyer belts carrying loads of crates on Toad's Factory, mining cars on Wario's Gold Mine, and deep powder on DK Summit. Of course, that's not even mentioning the newest Rainbow Road, which features a track so treacherous it resembles a slice of swiss cheese.

Considering all these new obstacles we had to deal with, it's a good thing we found ourselves enjoying the controversial Wii Remote wheel. The wheel itself has a nice bulk to it, with enough bulge to make it ergonomic and comfortable to hold. It reacts well to subtle movements, an area in which most motion-controlled racing games on the Wii have failed. There is a tendency to oversteer when panic sets in, but a good finish requires you to take it easy with the turns. We found it equally easy to control standard karts and the new motorcycles. Though they handle differently, they're both fun to control with the wheel.

Some of the other new controls tend to feel a little less responsive. When on a motorcycle, you can do a wheelie on a long stretch by shaking the wheel upward. The same motion also lets you do a midair trick after taking off with a jump, capped by a speed boost when you hit ground. Unfortunately, these tricks don't seem to respond as consistently to the controller shaking as you would like.

Beware the half-pipes, pockets of powder, snowmen, and basically everything else on the track.

Rounding out the new additions to Mario Kart's control scheme is an option to let you choose between automatic and manual power drifting. It's nice to have an option here because beginners will no doubt be confused by having to jump before every turn. Giving them the ability to ease into some of the more advanced techniques will only help the game attract new players. However, players who have spent much time with the series will find automatic to be a little on the boring side, and they're likely to opt for manual mode instead.

Mario Kart Wii looks like it should be both friendlier and more hostile to series beginners. Thankfully, none of that hostility arises from the Wii Remote wheel that had previously generated so much skepticism. The controls are solid, the new additions add variety, and the formula feels just as great as it always has. Now all that's left is to wait until April 27.

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103 comments
cloud12892
cloud12892

I cant wait for this game. Now all I need is the snes one out on the Virtual Console. Now that zelda,metroid,mario,smash bros and mario kart have made their wii debut, which Nintendo major franchise is next? I bet on Star Fox.

sothca
sothca

.... i loved double-dash mainly for the "two characters one kart" thing the tracks were awesome and the graphics weren't half bad.... what i've noticed is that every1 is riding alone..... i hope they put a double dash mode!

tamir1014
tamir1014

Now is it just me guys or was smash brothers for the wii was soo easy to beat i really hope this Next best thing for the wii isnt a dud. AM I right Guys?

tamir1014
tamir1014

Now is it just me guys or was smash brothers for the wii was soo easy to beat i really hope this Next best thing for the wii isnt a dud. AM I right Guys?

SonicHusky
SonicHusky

that would be awesome if this MK had a final destination track

petervaht
petervaht

Looks great except I worry they might tone down the difficulty too much from what it once was. Remember how hardcore the SNES version was. I think introducing the bullet and blue shell was a mistake. It takes no skill to use those items.

MariJoe007
MariJoe007

This mario kart is going to be the best!!

HOulS14
HOulS14

Looks like da best mario kart yet! Can't wait!!

Hellwilder
Hellwilder

Must... have... Mario Kart Wii *¬*

rockypuff
rockypuff

man this game looks great! I have been a fan on every one, double dash, N64 model cant wait for the wii one!!

Madkramdam
Madkramdam

I got it (Europe) and it's amazing. Yes, now the Americans have to wait. It beats any cart game and will blow em away with red shells or the bullet. Hey it's Mario Cart. Control with the old skool GC controller works best. Wii-wheel takes time, a bit sensitive. Tons of cars and players to unlock (to play with yourself ;) ) Lap and tracktimes to beat off and online. I played 12 player online and it's a blast. I gave it a 9.

DarkspineSonic0
DarkspineSonic0

the graphica are okay man! Not everything has to look like SSBB ya know. It ooks great! And I bet it's gonna be great as well. Just like every Mario Kart!

silentmage_245
silentmage_245

The graphics have messed up everything. Why can't the graphics be like SSBB's one?

mariostriker516
mariostriker516

I plan on getting the game but can you buy more wii wheels by them selfs

unclejohn0525
unclejohn0525

I wonder if Ryan and Jeff over at Giantbomb ran into the Gamespot editors at this show.

1357900
1357900

This is gonna be Kickinest Awesome! ;}

jigga2005
jigga2005

wow i cant believe it, we europeans have a game before the north americans do, been playing it here for a week now and i can tell u guys its freakin amazing and me and my buds been playing mario kart sinds we were kids, MUST BUY for every Wii owner, and THE reason to buy a Wii for those that still think the Wii is lame (not a fan boy saying this, have 360 as well and 90% of my time i play nwn (pc game) on Higher Ground servers) Best fun ive had for some time when havin a beer or just chillin and laughing with my friends @Seanathome : Super Paper Mario is a must buy imo. Thousand year door was better without a doubt, but games like that (wacky, fun, hilarious at times, not takin itself seriously ....) are VERY rare only nintendo in house developers ,Bioware for PC (BG II is awesome and funny at same time) or Take Two (generally PS and Xbox). These developers are prob the only ones (prob forgotten some tho) that still make games as prestige projects, not just money.

Padrepride
Padrepride

is the gamecube controller compatible with this game?

capitalthoughts
capitalthoughts

If what they are saying about Rainbow Road is true, then it is about time. Rainbow Road was the hardest track of the original Mario Kart and it was too easy on the 64. The gamecube was a slight improvement, but I like my Rainbow Road to be nice in name only.

kaiokenx100
kaiokenx100

CAN"T WAIT FOR THIS GREAT RACING ACTION!!!!!

Seanathome
Seanathome

So far, ALL the Mario games (besides Super Paper Mario) are a must-buy for Wii-owners! I mean, Super Mario Galaxy ROCKED, Mario Strikers Charged is pretty awesome, and Mario Kart looks and sounds fantastic. What's not to like about an Italian, plummer, eh? ;)

MexRoy10
MexRoy10

this is a must buy for every Wii owner and if you don't have a Wii then get one! What are you waiting for!

fang2714
fang2714

This game looks amazing *starts drooling*... don't get too secure Brits... Us Canadians are coming... GO CANADIA!!! :D

houtx1836
houtx1836

Let's get it on! (already ready pre-ordered)

Zargi
Zargi

It's an amazing game, I bought it last saturday and I've been playing it so much that it almost scares me. I never thought it would be this addictive! And believe me, Nintendo has finally got the online gameplay right. It's a huge step for Big N, only downside is the lack of proper chat. Anyways, amazing game, you are going to love it!

swissusadude
swissusadude

I will buy this game right away and really look forward to it. In reference to European and NA release dates, it's only like a two week difference.....we have SSBB and they don't even know when they will get it.

MarioLinkGenofa
MarioLinkGenofa

can't wait I've been playing DS to practice hope I train enough I want to get every car soon

UnchosenOne2
UnchosenOne2

Game looks freaking awesome! French do suck.

Fyernix
Fyernix

Lightmanone, I have a racer rating of 8125... :D Not boasting or anything... This game rocks, you yankees are going to love it. Can't wait to see more of you online. The french kinda suck unlike us Brits

cheeseychips
cheeseychips

Obviously LaDyKuNoiChi24 is a 5 year old

esmarsu
esmarsu

To be able to defeat all my buddies in a multiplayer session is the real deal of this game, let`s enjoy the wii wheel.

kid_ranqe
kid_ranqe

Mario kart is an awesome game! period

LaDyKuNoiChi24
LaDyKuNoiChi24

shut up lightmanone... Who cares? your such a moron... Btw this game looks awesome!

MiiWiiNumber2
MiiWiiNumber2

this and brawl are going to be the best games of the year (im in aus so we don't have brawl yet)

lfg18
lfg18

MMm, now I need to spend the money I've been saving for my car in another game, and GTAIV is coming, and MGS4, and well, i need another job!!!

roll450
roll450

Mario Kart still redems its name as one of the funniest Racing games out there. ^_^

grantrichardson
grantrichardson

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Lightmanone
Lightmanone

I have Mario Kart wii already (me = european) and it kicks ass.. already have a score online of 6723 :P try to keep up boys because by the time NOA comes online i will be in the top leagues KICKING YOUR ASSES >:D well... let's just say: mario kart wii is really good. enjoying it much, and you all won't be disappionted!

youngfame66
youngfame66

online play sounds coo but nintendo iz always getin lazy