Mario Kart Wii is only a couple of months away, so details have now started pumping out of Nintendo like fat out of a sumo on liposuction. The Krakatoan info burst has caught a lot of people by surprise given how long we were expecting to wait for the game (April? Seriously?), so we decided it's time to round everything up into a manageable chunk for you.
We've collected together everything we already know and tirelessly trawled through the newest screenshots, analysing them with our bulbous minds and squeezing out every last detail we can decipher. Everything we have is arranged delicately over the next few expertly-crafted pages, so hold down A at the end of that second light and boost your way in.
We know that Mario Kart Wii will contain at least 32 tracks, and like in Mario Kart DS, half of them will be remade courses from throughout MK history. Some might call this laziness on Nintendo's part, but not us. We still maintain that Mario Circuit 1 from Super Mario Kart is as good as any track out there, and the series as a whole is packed with classics that we'd cry if we couldn't play again, so we'll happily take another fat wedge of retro. And besides, 32 people. 32!
So which tracks can we confirm for the game so far? Well...
Waluigi Stadium (Double Dash, GC)
Delfino Square (Mario Kart DS, DS)
Mario Circuit 3 (Super Mario Kart, SNES)
Ghost Valley 2 (Super Mario Kart, SNES)
Peach Beach (Double Dash, GC)
Yoshi Falls (Mario Kart DS, DS)
Sherbet Land (Mario Kart 64, N64)
Shy Guy Beach (Mario Kart Super Circuit, GBA)
Mario Raceway (Mario Kart 64, N64)
So far it looks to be a good mix of brand new environments and updates to traditional MK staples. The new Luigi circuit is the usual simple training course, identified by its gentle, banking curves and gratuitious dispensing of zipper plates. MKW's Mario Circuit seems to take its cue from its GC predecessor, being situated once again around Peach's castle. It seems more densely populated this time, by what may be Toad houses, and that's possibly a reference to the new village design at the beginning of Super Mario Galaxy. And we've finally got a new Moo Moo level, this time called Moo Moo Meadow, which looks noticeably bigger than its agricultural originator on the N64. This makes us happy. We've missed those pudgy bovine.
Wario Goldmine seems to follow the rollercoaster template of Wario Colosseum and Wario Pinball, but does it in a beautiful-looking, sunset mountain environment. Coconut Mall is an indoor/outdoor track which has visual similarities to Daisy Cruiser from Double Dash and apparently incorporates a car park full of Miis to swerve around
And probably most interesting of all right now is the snowy mountain area of DK Summit, which appears to be the follow-up to Mario Kart DS' sublime DK Pass. Not only does it make heavy use of half pipes for mid-air stunting, but a look at the mini-map indicates some very interesting track structure. The road itself is set down the side of a ski slope, but much like Double Dash's DK Mountain, doesn't connect into a full circuit. If you remember, the Double Dash track used a cannon to fire you back up to the top when you got to the bottom, and those snowboarding Sky Guys on the chair lift make us think something similar is going on here.
Ski lifts were put to brilliant use at the end of each lap in Snowboard Kids on the N64, and if Nintendo can incorporate the same sort of frantic, dirty fights for lift queue position as we enjoyed in that game, this will be one of the best multiplayer tracks yet.
Mario Kart Wii is going to make use of most of the classic combat items, as well as adding a couple of cool new ones to arsenal of brightly-coloured death. The existing collection seems inspired by Double Dash and Mario Kart DS, comprising the usual array of green, red and blue shells, banana skins, lightning, stars and mushrooms, while bringing back the screen-obscuring Blooper from the handheld game and the Bob-ombs, golden mushroom, and a variation of the Bullet Bill transformation from the Gamecube title.
And the three new additions you've just skipped straight through the above paragraph to read about? Well firstly the POW block from the original Mario Bros. arcade game is making a comeback. It apparently hovers over your kart, threatening to stomp you unless you make three jumps timed to a specified rhythm, before doing just that if you don't. (A power-up that just threatened to do something would be a bit useless, would it not?) Presumably there'll be some sort of benefit if you pull it off, but at the moment it sounds like a prime "Oh God, not that one!" item.
There's also a storm cloud which gives you a speed boost for as long as you have it equipped, and which can be passed to (or more likely stolen by) any other player via a collision. The catch? Hold onto it for too long and it'll shrink your kart to post-lightning strike size. Nasty. We really like the sound of this one, and we can see some very tactical games being played using it alone.
And finally, the super 'shroom from New Super Mario Bros. is included, so expect a great deal of Giga Kart opponent-splattery going on when that one appears. A combination of the delicately tactical and the downright messy? Sounds like Mario Kart to us.
So what are the more fundamental changes to the way Mario Kart plays? Well most obviously is the motion control. Although GC controller and Nunchuk options will be available, the game can now be played by simply using the Wii remote as a steering wheel, just like in Excite Truck. If it works (and we don't see why it shouldn't), it will add a brilliant new level of immersion to Mario Kart. The combination of nippy, 'chuckable' go-kart handling and a 'real' steering wheel will make the series more viscerally involving than ever before.
The game is also going to be bundled with the Wii Wheel controller shell. As well as obviously giving you a more realistic steering wheel shape to hold, a detailed inspection of its underside reveals that it replaces the B trigger with a larger, flat button. Thank God for that, we say, as after trying to use Wiimote-only option in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, we can vouch for the fact that that button just doesn't work in anything other than a pistol-grip formation.
Power-sliding of course remains, but its mechanics have changed. The left and right tapping to build up a boost have gone, replaced with a turbo which is instead built up by the duration of your slide. It sounds very much like a hark back to the simpler way power-slides used to work on the SNES and we're eager to try it out. We don't yet know if this change is going to hamper snaking players (or "Cheap, donkey-licking, skill-less sons of syphilitic pigs", as the official term goes), but we're likely to find out soon.
The game also now incorporates both motorbikes and stunts. The bikes are at first reserved for the 100cc mode, but make a reappearance in the mixed-vehicle 150cc set-up, and are reportedly faster than the karts but have looser steering. Stunts can be performed with any vehicle by a gestural Wiimote input at the peak of a jump, and if pulled off successfully they provide a speed-boost on landing. Bikes can do wheelies on the tarmac to the same effect. We've also seen some mid-air trick moves used to corner at high speed on half-pipe sections of track.
And finally, there is of course the online mode. Operating from a dedicated Mario Kart channel (in-game only at the moment, but who knows if it'll make its way to the Wii menu in a firmware update or two), players will be able to participate in twelve-player online matches, with two players able to join in from the same machine in split screen. We're also going to be able to view twice our own bodyweights in player stats, including wins, losses, times in first place, successful attacks, favourite tracks, and tournaments played. And we'll be able to trade ghosts of our best lap times with friends online, spectate on their races, and jump in at any time we want.
Excited yet? If your answer is not "Yes!", then you are already dead, certainly in soul if not in body.