Monday, April 21, 2008

Hands-on With MarioKart For Wii

I'm not a big gamer (as I've said many times in this blog), but I do enjoy the occasional video game now and then. I recently got a Nintendo Wii, so I was excited when given the opportunity to try out the highly-anticipated gaming title Mario Kart before it hits store shelves on April 27th.

A private event in Toronto this Saturday gave media attendees the chance to try out the game with the help of Nintendo staff. Mario Kart is a slightly different experience than "regular" Wii games that utilize the one-handed Wii controller. The Wii controller itself pops into the middle of a small steering wheel that comes with the game (or can be purchased separately). Then, physically rotate the wheel left and right to move your character in his kart; just as you would if you were really driving a car. The "2" button serves as your gas pedal, the "1" your brakes, and up/down is used to shoot items at your rivals on the track. These "items" are obtained through boxes with question marks on the front that float in front of you as you drive along the track. My favourite item to shoot is a banana peel, which makes the competition skid into oblivion! Other neat features include thunder clouds that make your character turn into a miniature version of himself; or mushrooms that make you grow to gargantuan proportions. I (and my friend) found it tough not to be tempted to move both arms left or right along with the wheel, but with some practice, it'll probably become easier to hold the wheel steady. If preferred, gamers can also steer using the Wii remote and nunchuk, or the traditional keypad remote.

Several characters are available to choose from, including Mario and Luigi, as well as nostalgic ones like Donkey Kong. Kids will really love the ability to use their own Mii caricatures in the game as well. There are also several kart choices, including motorcycles. If you move the wheel backwards, Nintendo told us, a character on a motorcycle will actually pop a wheelie. I haven't tried that move yet, but I certainly will!

Mario Kart can be played solo, or against up to 3 others in the room (the screen will split into a quadrant so that each person can track his own race). There's also an opportunity to play online, and even send text messages back and forth to your opponents with some innocent "trash talking", joked a Nintendo spokesperson.

Interestingly, this was the first press event that I have ever attended where kids were present. In addition to inviting members of the press, Nintendo also invited a select group of "bigs" and "littles" from Big Brothers, Big Sisters; and journalists were allowed to bring along a guest, including a niece, nephew, or child. Needless to say, excitement levels were high.

Although I didn't spend loads of time with Mario Kart this weekend, it was obvious from the time I did spend that fun and energy are the names of the game. Families will also be happy to know that Mario Kart is suitable for players of all ages; a big selling point these days, especially with the ongoing controversy surrounding "violent" and "disturbing" game titles that young ones often engage in.

Mario Kart for the Wii will be available in North America on April 27 for about $49.95, and will come with the game and a wheel (the Wii remote is not included). Additional wheels will also be available for purchase for about $9-12, although some might find that they don't even need it.

As cool as Mario Kart is, I'm even more excited about the launch of Wii Fit in May, the fitness and exercise-friendly game. A price has finally been confirmed for the highly-anticipated title, which will come with a multipurpose balance board for intense activity: Wii Fit will sell for about $89.95, making it one of the most (if not the most) expensive games I've seen yet for the console.

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1 comment:

Lee_D said...

Our family are fiends for driving games.

I preordered my copy from Amazon, and am stoked about getting it!