First Look - This is prime time for the Wii right now. With Super Smash Bros Brawl hitting stores last month, Wii Fit heading out in May and the new Wiiware digital download service poised to make a splash, it's a good season for Nintendo.
One other game packed in there is Mario Kart Wii, which is available this week. Because it is a new entry in a widely successful franchise it has attained a lot of buzz, but it does little to really impress the way Nintendo has with other Wii titles.
Mario Kart dates back to the 1990s and has become one of the most successful spin-off series for the jubilant Italian plumber. The Wii installment is interesting because of the different control mechanics of the Wii itself.
Of note is that the game comes packaged with the Wii Wheel, a plastic casing in the shape of a steering wheel that holds the Wii Remote. As such users can control the game with what becomes a wireless steering wheel controller.
Casual gamers will likely look at the new version of Mario Kart and be impressed with the use of the motion-sensitive Wii Remote in controlling the racing vehicles. However, although the Wii has been revolutionary in many aspects, racing is certainly not one of them.
The idea of using a steering wheel controller in a racing game is one of the oldest in the video game industry. In fact, with a high-quality wheel controller never coming out for the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, Nintendo is quite late to the party with Mario Kart Wii.
The same goes for the online multiplayer aspect of the game. Once again there is a cumbersome process for actually being able to play against people you know, and if you want to play against random players, there is very little interaction possible. This is actually the second generation of Mario Kart online, as Mario Kart DS has had Wi-Fi support since it came out around two years ago.
The game itself is old hat for the kart racing series. There are single-player and multiplayer races, with around a couple dozen tracks. Without a huge visual overhaul it is really just another Gamecube racing title.
Of course, there is an element of "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" here, and because the time-tested Mario Kart formula works very well it is a fun game, but this certainly isn't one of the Wii games that will be remembered for generations to come.