Then there are bikes. Four wheels good, two wheels bad? When we hopped on Peach’s scooter for the first time we thought Nintendo had seriously messed up. Steering a bike with the wheel was horribly unnatural, the rotation motion completely at odds with the handlebar twist you’d expect from a bike. Squeeze the waggle stick out of the shell and the problem is solved.
Bikes differ in two key areas. For one, they’re equipped with a wheelie capability that offers a slight hike in speed at the expense of steering stability. Flick the remote up and the front wheel lifts up; flick the remote back again and the wheel lowers as full control returns. It’s a tad mechanical - a wheelie will naturally last around five seconds - but the extra speed boost it affords is a genuinely sneaky treat, especially when applied to overtake on the final stretch.
So the two vehicles are unbalanced, then? Nintendo would say no. To compensate for their crafty one-wheel antics, the bikes’ drifting capacity is curbed at blue flames. No matter how long you powerslide a bike for, you ain’t going to milk a speedy red flame from its engine. Is it enough? Maybe not. The difference in speed between a blue flame and red flame boost isn’t really great enough to warrant labeling the kart’s extra drift reward as compensation.
The same old difficulty-balancing tricks rear their ugly heads: heavy characters magically upping their acceleration to apply some final lap pressure and a constant flow of blue shells for Mr. Rubbish in 12th position. That’s a constant flow of blue shells subsequently spammed by the still moronic AI.
An extra four karts - Mario Kart traditionally uses eight - ramp up the chaos within the lower ranks, but the ease with which you can glide away means you’ll only ever spy the congestion on the map. And an extra four karts means an extra four loads of items chucked about - so thanks, Nintendo, for a remote speaker alarm and onscreen warning for approaching items. Seeing exactly where an item is traveling improves avoidance odds, though DS fans will miss the comprehensive map the bottom screen offered.