The driving experience in Mario Kart Wii is similar to predecessors, except for the new expectation of tilting, jiggling or thrusting the Wii-mote around during gameplay. There are several different methods of control for the game, so let's go through a nice rundown:

The Wii Wheel

Wii-wheel: The game comes with a free Wii wheel, which would otherwise have set the buyer back ~$15. The Wii-mote fits conveniently into it, and a loose, clunky rectangle on the back lines up with the B-button to make everything accessible. Using this lightweight, white plastic torus, (I'm sure you'll be able to personalize it very soon with skins, images, perfumes or whatever Nintendo dreams up for a little more cash), the experience feels a little like driving in a tiny, invisible automobile on a frictionless road located no specific distance below you. Tilt it right and the kart turns right; left and it turns left. But if that's not enough fun for you, there's more! When using a motorcycle, tilt the wheel up to pop a wheelie (this gives you a small boost in speed, but makes you susceptible to being stunned by opponent collisions and you have less turning capability while suspended on one tire). If you're driving off a jump, give the controls a quick shake and the character does a trick in the air, followed by a speed boost upon landing. Different shakes result in different tricks, it seems, but so far I can't figure out how to get any dirty gestures out of anybody. (I mean, wouldn't you want to "express yourself" at someone as you leap past them after they pegged you with a red shell while driving down I-40?).

A seasoned veteran of Mario Kart will probably get frustrated with the wheel, and might even toss it altogether after trying the other setups. The main problems are that it's difficult to drive in a straight line (it slows you down especially while wheelie-ing) and timing on drifting is tricky -- you can easily accidentally start drifting the wrong way if you're too fast for the controller. Shaking the controller (to recover from spills, do tricks over jumps and pop wheelies) can make it hard to maintain a direction as well. The bottom line is that no matter how fun it might be to play around with for a little while, the Wii Wheel raises the degree of difficulty to master the game to an incredibly high and frustrating level to the point of not being worth it. (Note: removing the Wii-mote from the Wii-wheel gives the same basic control system; I guess it's just not as Wii-cool.)

The Nunchuk

Nun-chucks: Not included with the Kart game (but available for purchase at your local gaming supply store) is the nunchuck option, which utilizes a second hand controller that attaches to the Wii-mote via a plug-in cord. In this layout, the player doesn't physically turn right or left, but rather uses the analog stick to direct the vehicle. The Wii-mote side still controls wheelies and jump tricks by quick upward tilting of the front end or giving it a little shake. Using items might require some dexterity of the fingers, but of all the choices this is probably the most ergonomic method of control.

The Classic Controller

Classic or GameCube Controller: For those that really can't handle change, be (somewhat) reassured. You can still do sufficiently well using the old models. However, when using this set up, shaking the controller like a monkey on acid will secure nothing but the ridicule of anyone watching you. Gameplay won't be affected by your physical outbursts (which might be good news for control throwers… you know who you are). There is one major drawback for those looking for a GameCube like experience: Mario Kart Wii changes the fundamental control of the GC controller by changing the button layout… and it is impossible to adjust which buttons do what in Mario Kart Wii. If it were one problem or the other it could go without mentioning, but the combination makes using the GC controller less satisfying for fans of the Mario Kart Double Dash.

The GameCube Controller

The inability to adjust the controls continues to be a serious oversight in the Mario Kart series. There are small tweaks that would go a long way for all control schemes, and it doesn't make sense anymore not to allow the gamer to tweak the controls if he or she wishes. We can build it better. We have the technology.

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  • Aloonatic - Saturday, August 09, 2008 - link

    The problem that Nintendo have always had with Mario Kart is that they got it right first time. Like that bolognaise you make when you realise you have no bought in sauce, which ends up being the best you have ever tasted you know that it is doomed never to be repeated.

    On the SNES it was mostly about the racing, the control of your kart at high speeds, with the occasional item that may help you out, may not.

    Now, it seems that the the racing has been completely replaced by random chance and all at a snail's pace, even in the 150cc cups.

    You can be finishing 1st, 1st, 1st, then 12th???? in a cup. Why? because of constant attacks that are so unlikely and random as to be frankly mind boggling.

    The blue shell, seriously, what's the point?

    The wii wheel? OK, until you get an itch and then you are buggered, there's no chance of a quick scratch without you finding your self well off the track.

    Such a great disappointment.

    I guess if I was 12 again I might have the time an inclination to take on this game but I really can't be bothered. What's the point? Your hard work will just be undone by a series of unlikely events.
  • Athlex - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    While I agree that the raincloud is a an iffy item, it's worth mentioning that while you have the raincloud, your kart accelerates faster and can drive off-road better which makes for a [slightly] easier handoff. Reply
  • mkfan - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    The update to the "review" was a little weak. I get that you didn't figure out where the options were, but it's right there in the manual. Granted, the first time I opened the manual was to make sure it was in there, but the fact remains that if you're writing a review for a reputable site, you should maybe RTFM before slamming your subject for not having something that it does. Also, if you're going to do updates, it might help to mention the update somewhere near the information that's updated. Quite frankly, I expected a little more professionalism out of a review from AnandTech. Reply
  • MrBlastman - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    This is very bad news for us Mario Kart purists who enjoyed the ability to hop around at our leisure.

    To not include this is rediculous. I don't know if I'll be buying this version after all. I thought Nintendo learned from the sorry excuse of the gamecube version and the inability to jump.

    You could jump in the original, you could jump in the N64 version. You couldn't jump in the GC version and it failed. Weather it is important to do or not, it detracts from the fun such as shell evasion etc.

    I don't want to have to find a ramp to jump. I want to hop around all day like an idiot if I want to. :)
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    as noted by one of the other posters, you can jump.

    it's labeled in the article as well -- it's the drift button. drift, as with other mario kart games, is started via a jump.

    also, the ability to jump is labeled in the images in the article as well ... only the author called it "hop" instead of "jump" ...
  • jordanclock - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    You can jump. Just quickly raise the controller a bit. And it's probably a shoulder button for the Classic and GC controllers.

    And I believe you meant "whether" instead of "weather."
  • Scalarscience - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    As the above poster stated, you can jump with the wheel, but I found that after the initial fun from the novelty factor of the wheel wore off, the nunchuck+wii controller was the best way to drive, at least for me. When you do that the 'Z' button replaces the 'B' button as your item usage button, the 'B' button becomes jump/slide (for the boost) and steering with the analog stick on the nunchuck is FAR easier than the wheel's method, plus doing tricks off of a ramp and pulling wheelies with the bikes is a lot more reliable when you don't have to use the motion sensing to steer.

    It took me a day or two of playing in first player mode to really get all of that sorted out. My wife (I really bought the game because she loves it) wanted to just go online most of the time so it took a bit longer to get the details of gameplay down than it would have if I had gamed solely on my own time. Now that I've got a mode of playing I enjoy the game is definately as fun as the n64 and SuperNES version (my 2 favorites).

    The shells and being repeatedly bombarded by items definately are annoying, I agree, but the game is fun nonetheless. Since the wii downloaded an update for it immediately upon inserting the disc the first time, I do wonder if we'll be getting more updates (not to mention that it would be nice to see additional downloadable content, more tracks!)
  • 9nails - Sunday, June 01, 2008 - link

    One of the downsides to the game, at least for me, is that there isn't an option to restart the race. (Keep all current settings and just go back to the race beginning.) Sometimes we just want to start over, but have to select tracks, characters, and karts all over again.

    In Grand Prix mode, it becomes quite frustrating to try and unlock all the characters and karts with these power-up items mercilessly destroying you. I've been blown-up by Blue (Winged) Shells seconds before the finish line with a near perfect 4-track record too many times now. Sometimes I've been blown-up by Blue Shells, landed in my own Banana's that were flung off of me by the explosion, and then finally spun off the track - going from 1st to last (12th) in one comedic chain-of-events-attack! It takes me at least 1 full lap to get back to 1st place again. These power-up items are really annoying me! I wish there was a mode to turn them off in Grand Prix or at least a defensible action to reverse the effects of all items. I know that a well timed jump can prevent the "Pow" attack or a well placed Banana can prevent Red and Green Shells from hitting me, so some counter-attack is present. But other special attacks offer no means of prevention - which is especially true if you're not carrying an item to counter-effect the attack.

    There also is some "return to track" issues if you go off course. Sometimes I'm placed WELL behind the position where I left the track. Just one bump knocking you off track can cost you 8+ positions before your back up to speed. That's devastating if you're trying to unlock all the items and this happens on the last race. Sometimes the computer returns me a few feet in front of a gap and I have little choice but it fall into the gap as I didn't have enough speed to jump over and clear the gap.
  • jordanclock - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    You make a good point of just how ruthless this game can be. I'm bothered that after all these years, all Nintendo can do to make the computer "competitive" is to rubber band them to the extreme. I've been ahead by very large margins before only to have three or four computer players come shooting up at once to overtake me. It's simply ridiculous that they can't simply give the AI the ability to drive properly instead of, essentially, cheat.

    There is almost no margin of error in this game when competing against the AI. And then there are the very common blue shells, to which there are no defense.
  • Rob94hawk - Saturday, May 31, 2008 - link

    My son found a way for me and him to be the same player. That's when you see a graphical glitch. For example when you select Toad and player 1 puts him on a bike and player 2 puts him in a kart toad has his head rammed into the bike. And then sometimes he will have no vehicle at all and is just there alone levitating. Funny stuff. Reply

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