Mario Kart in the Mirror

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 7:20 | Filed in Gaming, Reviews

Mario Kart Wii (Amazon)

The “kids” got Mario Kart for the Wii for Christmas. It’s the game where you plug the Wiimote into a driving wheel, and basically drive around with that.

It’s also bloody good fun. If you have a Wii, and I had to recommend one game, this is the game I would choose (although I also have a soft spot for the star wars lego). The reason? It’s simple to grasp. You use the wheel to steer around, and you have an accelerate and a brake button (although I’m not sure that I’ve ever pressed the brake). But while it’s simple to grasp, it’s not quite so easy to master.

Initially, it seems like you have sixteen tracks to race around, 18 vehicles to ride (6 per character ’size’), and 8 characters to choose from. However, as you progress through the game, you can unlock additional vehicles (32 in all), additional characters (26 in all), and additional tracks (32 in all). You can for example, unlock the chance to play with your Mii as the character, which is quite good fun.

You also have the option of using automatic or manual drift. Automatic is simpler, and is the one for me, because I keep forgetting to press the button when using manual drift, but manual drift has its advantages — used properly it can give you mini turbo boosts which can easily be the difference between finishing first, or … not.

Collecting bonuses is part of the fun too: different bonuses can be collected — from homing shells which target your nearby fellow drivers and temporarily knock them over (either giving you the chance to get away from them or catch them), bananas you can drop on the racetrack to make cars skid, or a magic bullet which you can pick up if you are towards the back of the race, which temporarily improves your speed, drives around the track for you and makes you invulnerable (and capable of knocking other cars off the track). As you get used to the bonuses, you get to know how — and when — to use them.

So while the game is easy to pick up, there are three main difficulty levels — 50cc races, 100cc races, and 150cc races. Basically, as you get better at the steering and the tactics, you can step up the difficulty levels: at the higher cc races, your opponents are better: seemingly better at timing their use of bonuses against you, less likely to make mistakes, and generally faster.

I got the The kids got the game six months ago — Santa brung it, as I recall — and yet it’s still one that they like to come back to and play. And every time they pick it up, it makes me want a turn. And finally, last night, I took part in the Lightning Cup at the 150cc level and won it for the first time (winning, in this case, means topping the leaderboard after four races — getting the gold). This completed my victories in every grand prix at the 150cc level (I’ve also won all at the 50cc and 100cc, but that’s to be expected as they are easier than the 150cc).

I’m not telling you this just because I’m smug about it (although that is no doubt a factor).

No, the important thing about this is that it unlocked Mirror Mode. This is another set of races, I’m not entirely sure whether the drivers are better again than at 150cc, or if I’ve dropped a place or two on average because the courses are reversed, so the turns and corners aren’t as I expect them. Yup, that’s right. Mirror mode means you’re driving around the courses in the other direction, which is kinda fun, if a little confusing…

There’s also a lot of sites where you can find “cheats” for Mario Kart Wii. Only they aren’t “cheats” at all. For example, being told “win all 150cc cups to unlock mirror mode” does not actually unlock mirror mode for you, nor does it make it any easier to win all the 150cc cups. And all the cheats for Mario Kart Wii are of this nature (”Unlock King Boo: Win the 50cc Star Cup. Alternately, win 750 races.”). The so-called cheats don’t actually make playing the game any easier, but they do give you an incentive: you can know which unlock character/ vehicle/ race you’re working towards.

And that is what keeps you wanting to play the one player mode: unlocking new stuff. I’ve won all of the 50cc cups, all of the 100cc cups, all of the 150cc cups, but there are still characters and vehicles left to unlock. And that’s just in one-player mode.

Where the game really comes into its own is two player mode, when you’re racing split-screen against a friend, relative or small child. It’s simply brilliant. If you have a Wii, this is the one game you must own. Make sure you get a second wheel, though — it’s much more fun with the driving wheels.

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8 Comments to Mario Kart in the Mirror

  1. Gary Miller says:

    June 16th, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I always suspected you were a closet ‘games geek’; now I know for sure! Shame on you…give the kids their toy back! :)

  2. Darren Taylor says:

    June 16th, 2009 at 8:36 am

    I’ve seen my son play mirror mode in the DS version but neither of us have reached that level in the wii version. I prefer not to use the wheel, I find have more control with the wiimote and nunchuk.

  3. Steve says:

    June 16th, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    yup we found this in the Christmas stocking too. However, we also got Mario Galaxy which took over our household for a while and is dangerously addictive. I’ve actually been “clean” of all things Merio related for three months now.

  4. Shannon says:

    June 17th, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    I’ve only played this once since I don’t have a Wii, but I admit it’s highly addicting and so far my favorite Wii game I’ve sampled. Having said that though, MarioKart’s pretty much been my favorite game on any system but my gaming expertise peaked with Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 and included games like 007: Goldeneye and Donkey Kong.

  5. WillZor says:

    June 22nd, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Damn Jack – i’m still trying to get the final 3 gold in the 150cc — Lucy and myself have been battling away at Mario many a late night over a weekend to no avail!

    Problem is that on this level its not a matter of driving skill but of what the AI players will do to you on the very last turn of lap 3!…argh! :)

  6. JackP says:

    June 22nd, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Which ones you stuck on Will?

    And yes, you’re right about that problem. I can get 60 points on each Grand Prix at the 50cc level; my record at 150cc level is 51 points (and I achieved one gold with only 39)

  7. Matt says:

    June 24th, 2009 at 1:42 am

    Am back in love with the Wii now playing house of the dead, (probably best to keep the kids away from this) but seriously seriously good fun

  8. WillZor says:

    August 7th, 2009 at 10:00 am

    we managed to complete all of the mirrors.. now battling to get 2 stars on each… the time wasting continues! :)

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