It’s Not FOR You

I played Mario Kart Wii today, and I spent more time kvetching about level design than actually playing. I like games that are not afraid to be cute in the North American market, but too many take the “it’s a kids game” excuse to skimp on things like balance or reasonable level design. Many fall prey to two problems at once. First, the learning curve is shallow and short, quite often with great randomness, so there is little difference between being experienced and playing for the first time. Second, the differences that do exist are completely game-breaking, including degenerative strategies, exploits, or tricks trivialize the game. Insert your favorite examples here, say blue shells or raining power-ups and cheap moves in the Smash Brothers series.

You can imagine how I react to level design problems in racing games given my day job. “This cartoon roadway has completely inadequate signage and lining.”

There are additional problems in terms of party games. First, the above, although hopefully the randomness is enough to avoid having new people get stomped by whoever owns the game in question. Second, make sure to bring your save files with the game, because bringing just the game to Bob’s house means nothing is unlocked. I have not seen how portable everything is with the Wiimotes. Third, there is still a learning curve, such as Mario Kart’s maps with falls that can essentially knock you out of the race. You will cycle through courses if you are playing it as a party game, so by the time that you get an idea of the proper path on one map, you are done playing that one, and you are not getting back to it unless you and your friends play at epic length.

Which you might, since you are gamers, but I have accepted that the Wii was not made for us. Obviously that is a great financial decision, because the Wii has been a haberdashery for money hats, but it is disappointing for the core audience left behind. Almost everything utilizing the Wiimote is far more gimmicky than innovative, and it does not seem sensitive enough to do anything really interesting; insert Yahtzee here mocking “wave spasmodically as gameplay.” It is a great system for casual players and for party games, but has it brought us anything much better than the original Wii Sports? It seems like the Gamecube had the best versions of all the Nintendo games.

: Zubon

5 thoughts on “It’s Not FOR You”

  1. I got plenty of opportunity to watch young relatives playing Mario Kart over Christmas. It was easily the most popular game – particularly the DS version.

    There were effectively two different games being played – serious single player with kids spending hours working their way through all the tracks and casual multiplayer games which were great for a laugh but they never got beyond the first few tracks. Nintendo cater for this perfectly by allowing single cartridge multiplayer of just those first few tracks.

    It seems to me that Nintendo managed to combine a great casual multiplayer (party game) with a serious single player game (at least in terms of time played). The one thing Mario Kart does not even try to offer is a serious multiplayer game.

  2. Just finished New Super Mario for the Wii, and had a great time. Amazing that you can basically re-make a 20yr old game and still have it be so entertaining. I more or less get the same from Mario Cart Wii. Mario Strikers on the other hand… Nintendo hard.

  3. Zack & Wiki is a cute, point & click adventure with some devilishly clever puzzles that are definitely not for the kids, even if a couple of the puzzles have more than one way to solve them. Of course being a Wii game, performing actions in the game (when Zack interacts with items) makes extensive use of the Wiimote’s motion sensor. It does seem a little gimmicky sometimes, like when you hold the Wiimote vertically & press the 2-button to open an Umbrella, but it also adds a little bit to the gameplay that would be missing if you used a standard controller.

    Mumamasa is a visually appealing game. On the easy setting (which my son plays it) it seems more a button masher than anything else, so if you want more of a challenge you need to play it on the regular/hard setting.

    Then there’s Sky Crawlers which flips the controls around (if you want to play that way) and has you holding the Nunchuk in your right hand while using it as joystick/Flight Yoke, with the Wiimote in your left hand acting as a throttle.

    I’ll admit that there’s not a lot of great games for the Wii, but they are out there.

  4. Mario Kart was the first game I ever picked out. It is still pretty much the only racing game I have wanted to play (any version perdy much). But Trackmania is pretty good too.

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