The downside of this approach is that few of the remade courses have an awful lot of wow factor, but to make up for it the new ones – mostly collected in the latter cups – are superb. Koopa Cape has some terrifying drops and some brilliant river and underwater sections, while the lava-filled Grumble Volcano is the sort of course that punishes rash racing lines or dozy play. Maple Treeway, with its narrow, twisting branch tracks, is one of the most fiendish Mario Kart courses I’ve ever played. Coconut Mall, meanwhile, makes the best use of your systems’s selection of Miis. While other tracks feature them as spectators, the Mall has them as obstacles, reversing cars in the car park that are guaranteed to get into your kart’s way. It’s the sort of nice touch that distinguishes the best Nintendo games.
Now, unless you’re really hot under the collar about the changes to the handling and the boost model, I think you’ll find Mario Kart Wii a hugely entertaining single-player game. As always, the action is divided into three classes, 50CC, 100CC and 150CC, with the 100CC now restricted to motorbikes only. Old hands will find the 50CC class pretty easy going, which is fine as its designated a beginner’s class. The 100CC class also lacks challenge early on, but picks up in the later cups as the courses grow more challenging and it gets harder to push ahead of the chasing pack.
With 12 karts or bikes on track at any time, there’s a lot of carnage in the new Mario Kart, and new weapons like the Bullet Bill, where you become the eponymous bullet and smash your way along the track for a short period, up the ante quite considerably. By the time you get to the 150CC class this can make the going very hard indeed, and while you can get the occasional win by hitting first pace early on and hoping that the racers in the pack fight among themselves, the usual Mario Kart habits – rubber banding the racers so that slower karts can catch up and dishing out less powerful weapons while you’re in front – make the majority of races a real struggle. This is exactly as it should be, and it’s this – plus the constant attraction of finding the perfect racing line and the best place to pull off stunts and boosts – that gives the game some of its long-term appeal.
Some, but not all, because the real pull of Mario Kart has always been playing with friends. Time trials and two to four player races will keep your household busy for some time, even if there will be grumbles about the fact that the eight to ten racers who complete the line-up can give unlucky human players such a pounding that not all of the Wii remote throwing will be accidental. And if it’s one thing to know that your partner or flatmate has just beaten your course record, it’s another thing to see it represented by their grinning Mii standing ahead of yours on a visual display; an insult only racing and beating their saved ghost will allay.