Crispy Gamer

Mario Kart Wii: The First 10 Minutes

I unboxed my reviewable copy of Mario Kart Wii yesterday (Thursday, 4/24). It arrived via FedEx in a shoebox that appeared to be my recently-filled Zappos order. Only the subtle skid mark graphic across the shoebox lid hinted at what lay inside.

Ah, yes -- now, this is why I went to game journalism school. For moments like this one...

After digging the game out of a bird's nest of annoying Easter grass -- Nintendo, for some bizarre reason, always ships its games in these nests -- I unboxed the game, cracked the shrink-wrap, and popped it into the office Wii.

I figured a system update would be necessary, as it was when I went through the same process a month ago for Smash Bros. Brawl. It wasn't. A few clicks later, I was creating my first Mario Kart Wii license, complete with my disgruntled-looking Mii in the your-picture-goes-here spot.

Once the license was created, it was time to take the game out for an extensive test drive.

First, the bad news: Aside from motorbikes (a first for the series), a surprisingly polished online interface (another first) and 16 new tracks, there's not really much here that we haven't seen or done before.

Nintendo, like no one else in this business, gets away with sequels -- or rather "sequels" -- that are really updates of the tried-and-true, and journos and gamers alike, for some bizarre reason, tolerate it. Call it the Cult of Mario. (The only other flagrant culprit of this: the Madden series.)

Seriously, the Burnout: Paradise update due later this year, which features night driving, motorcycles, etc., will feature more substance as a mere update than Mario Kart Wii does in its entirety. But I digress.

And the core gameplay moment of Mario Kart Wii -- quick-hit races featuring plenty of "wacky" moments and frustrating finishes (you will be cursing, early and often, trust me) -- hasn't changed much at all.

Some of the 16 new tracks are nothing short of spectacular, including two early standouts: the shopping mall track (keep an eye peeled for advertisements featuring your various Miis as you speed through) and a subterranean mine cart track.

Much of the weaponry arsenal remains the same, with some minor exceptions. The POW Block sends a rumble through the course, causing anyone in its way to tailspin, then cough up whatever items they're carrying. And there is the Blooper, a squid-like creature that spritzes your screen with ink that obscures your view, which has to be the most frustrating (or rather, frustration-inducing) weapon in the game.

And the Wii Wheel? Well?it's not as bad as most of my more cynical colleagues are making it out to be. In fact, I'm enjoying using it so far -- far more than I thought I would. My guess is, most of Middle America will appreciate the Wii Wheel far more than any critics will, and that's really what Nintendo is most concerned with, anyway.

Overall, the game is looking rock-solid thus far. We've got some multiplayer sessions penciled in at the Crispy G. offices for later this Friday afternoon, which we're all looking forward to. Keep an eye on the site for Kyle "Mr. Games for Lunch" Orland's upcoming full-on review.

This preview was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

For all the latest Mario Kart Wii news, screens and more, go to Mario Kart Wii Central.