I’m not much of a gamer. I’ve had a Playstation 2 for years but about the only games I’ve actually played on it are Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the sequel, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (both of which I loved, particularly for the music and humour). But aside from those two the only time I play any games are when I fire up Word Mole on my BlackBerry (and only when I’m really bored).
So this Christmas we “borrowed” my good lady’s nephew’s Nintendo Wii. I’d heard from several friends that they’re really good fun and have a broad appeal for gamers and non-gamers alike, and that they’re even more fun when you’re drunk. And on both counts they’re absolutely right! The Wii – as anybody who’s ever used one knows – doesn’t bother trying to keep up with high-performance consoles like the Playstation 3 or XBOX 360 with cutting edge, realistic graphics and sticks to simpler, more cartoonish games. And the wireless remote controls use accelerometers so you can swing them around the room rather than just pressing buttons were revolutionary and I expect will be much copied in time (hey, it’s good enough for the iPhone and iPod touch games).
So I started – as I’m sure many people do – by just about throwing my shoulder out of its socket playing hours of Wii tennis continuously. While not exactly like the real thing it’s realistic enough to get you to swing your arm across the room trying to power-drive the ball down the line! But this was as nothing to how addicted I’ve become to Mariokart.
Back when I was a student I used to spend many a happy hour playing Mariokart on one of my friend’s N64. We’d have battles, races and the cool thing about it was that it captured all the fun and excitement of the original Mariokart that I’d played years before on the SNES (the vintage Super Nintendo Entertainment System) while taking it to new levels. The fact that you were trying to win a race but the worst you did the better the power ups you’d get, and the better you were doing the worse the power ups made it fun even if you’re rubbish at it – it just about levelled out. Unlike some driving games that are purely skill based, Mariokart managed to make it instantly playable for the expert and novice alike.
I was delighted to find that the Wii version of Mariokart stays true to the heart of the original and again brings it on another level. The fact that the controller is a wheel that you can turn in mid-air along with the extra power ups, good combination of new and old tracks along with the ability to play on-line against people who are actually very good at the game (the best I’ve finished in a race is 4th so far) makes it lots of fun. And the cute graphics, sound effects and multi-player options rock. I was also delighted to see the infamous track “Rainbow Road” there and brought into the 21st century (historical note / urban legend: apparently Rainbow Road on the SNES could cause epileptic fits – no idea if that’s true or not). Anyway, it’s the perfect antidote to a hard day’s work and I’ll be in no hurry to give the Wii back to its original owner!
Now, all that remains is to see how it plays when I’m drunk… 😉