March 7, 2008 - Over the last few days the IGN office has been abuzz about the recent arrival of Mario Kart Wii. Everything from motion control to the inclusion of retro levels, removal of the "left/right" power slide boost, character roster, multiplayer options and more have been up for debate, as people at the LA office (both gamer and casual alike) are sitting down with the latest in Nintendo racing.
We spent our initial hours detailing the game's basic points in our most recent hands-on, and since then we've been honing our skills, trying our hand at each control type, and generally warming up to this admittedly different offering of Kart. Moving away from the main control and options, however, a good Mario Kart can be judged on its track design, with strong offerings echoing forever in the memories of a dedicated fanbase, and weaker levels cast quickly to the wayside to make way for the more enjoyable experiences. Every hardcore Mario Kart fan remembers cashing in a jump feather to take the last-minute shortcut on the original Super NES ghost house track, or boosting off Rainbow Road in N64 to take flight and skip half the track. Does Mario Kart Wii have those timeless additions as well? Take a look, as we explore the first eight original tracks from the game, complete with new screens, descriptions, and video montages of each cup.
Being the entry-level group of levels, you won't find much in the Mushroom Cup that's totally mind-blowing. Like previous Kart experiences, the 16 new tracks increase not only in difficulty, but also in outlandish design as you move from open roads and laid back environments to intense, event-filled finales.
A classic circuit race in every regard, Luigi Circuit is a relatively short track, with lap times sitting at 29 seconds flat. In time trial mode, Nintendo President Saturo Iwata's Mii clocked a 1:29 time for all three laps with Luigi; not a bad run. The stadium track is lined with onlooking Mii characters pulled from your Wii, and only a few quick shortcuts. Use a mushroom to boost over a small jump located in the high grass, but be sure to get back on the track in time to take the final turn in a full power slide, hitting a line of a dozen or so boost pads.
Moo Moo Meadows
It's a new take on Moo Moo farm, but this early track doesn't have much going on. Use power slides to navigate the varying hills and curved roads, but be sure to avoid the devastating high grass that lines this countryside. Also, there are cows. Don't hit cows. Cows hit back. A trip around this track takes a cool 30 seconds, just as long as you don't get stuck running face to face with a Monty Mole in the process.
The first of the more inspired levels in Mario Kart Wii, Mushroom Gorge is a slightly larger racing arena complete with huge mushroom jump-pads, a beautiful cave section, and roaming Goombas. Take the first section of the course as fast as possible, using the outside corner of the first jump section to avoid the mushrooms altogether and instead make use of the boost pads. Once inside the cave, however, lay off the speed boosts, and take the bounce section safely. One mistake here can leave you in 12th place. All in all the track takes about 45 seconds to cruise though.
Easily the best track in the Mushroom Cup (and one of the best in the starting eight), Toad's Factory is packed with tricks and traps though a minute-long stretch of road. After turn one you'll come to a main steel press room, complete with conveyer belts running both with you, and against. Spot the lines that are scrolling forward for a boost in speed, but watch out for smashing pistons. The next set of opposition comes with the loading dock, where scrolling treads again try to throw you off-course. Each alternates between scrolling left and right, so get in a good rhythm and use the speed to your advantage. A final quick treadmill area will segue into a final off-road section, complete with one main jump for tricking, and then a pit of boost pads and mud. Hit the pads for a boost (minding that the whole area will shift on lap two and three, actually morphing the layout of the boost pads), and hit the final jump before heading across the finish line.