Is it not marvellous that video games can fulfil one’s fantasies, no matter how ludicrous they are? Mario Kart Wii fulfils fantasies that I did not even know I had until I found them. While playing, I realised that I had always wanted to drive a car along a river, over a waterfall and through a water-slide.
Mario Kart also lets you do things that you could never do on a proper road, yet wish you could. Slow driver in front? Knock them out of the way. Is there a car right up your backside? Strike them with lightning. Irritating person jockeying for position alongside you? Turn yourself into a rocket and fly ahead without even trying.
Of course, your rivals can do exactly the same to you. There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing a siren just as you enter the final straight and knowing you are going to be hit while Bowser streaks past to the finish line…other than accidentally driving your car off the track into a river of lava or gathering of buildings. Poor Yoshi has been killed more times than Kenny.
The tracks vary greatly in style and difficulty, and as such it is rather challenging to do so well on a circuit of four different tracks that in reward another circuit is unlocked. I still haven’t found the Shroom Ridge-like track that I enjoy so much on the DS version. Tearing along a mountain road with no barriers while sneaking between cars, lorries and buses is something I have always wanted to do, and I would like to do it on a screen that is bigger than the DS. Also, who hasn't wanted to race through a shopping mall like a group of children let loose in the Metro Centre in their little pedal cars?
There are, however, some tracks I am not fond of. Bowser’s Castle, for instance, is full of sharp, ninety-degree turns rather than the smooth curves of the other tracks; and the snow covered one seemed undoable at first.
Another feature that is rather charming is the Wii Wheel that comes with the game. Back in the old days, whenever I played a racing or driving game on the Playstation 1, I used to turn the controls, which did not help a jot. Now, though, it does! Turning a wheel in the appropriate direction is so much more natural than pressing a button, and so much more satisfying as you can pretend you’re The Stig and hold a car perfectly as it drifts smoothly around corners - sometimes.
Character-wise, the usual suspects are there: Waluigi, Wario, and Toad. Baby Mario and Baby Peach are very cute, but their voices are so high that only a dog could hear them, and so annoying that should you have a dog, it will probably hate you for playing as the toddlers. Miis can also be brought into the action, but sadly, that is another joy I have yet to unlock.
The Wi-Fi connection means that players from around the world can be challenged, or simply have a race with a friend. I was rather pleased to come fourth in my first global race.
Mario Kart Wii is full of action, excitement, speed, humour, frustration, reward, and whimsy. All of these things combine to make the most entertaining racing game in the world. While playing it, my hands have not gotten so sweaty since I watched the Murray v Gasquet fourth round match at Wimbledon last month.