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Mario Strikers Charged online verdict

Mario Strikers Charged is the first online Wii game in the UK, so we've crowbarred ourselves away from the Halo 3 Beta for a few hours to put Mario's online kick-about to the test.

Diving straight in, it takes a few seconds for the Wii to sign into Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Once in, the first thing you're asked to do is choose your Mii - something you should expect most, if not all, online Wii games to do.

After that you're taken to the front-end screen for the online mode where, just above the options at the bottom of the screen, two Mii pictures are displayed: yours, and the Striker of the Day. The Striker of the Day is a neat little feature that shows the name an Mii of the person who's scored the most points online that day. So if you manage the feat your Mii will pop up on Wii consoles across Europe.

Your options from that screen are minimal. You can add a friend code to your Friend Roster, and you play against friends by choosing the Friendly option. Your only other gameplay option is to head into a public game in the Ranked mode, where you are paired up with a person of similar skill. The matchmaker works pretty quickly - we've never had to wait for more than 30 seconds for it to find an opponent, although it usually does it in under 20 seconds.

One thing to note is that you can only play people that live outside of Europe if they're added to your friends list (although Nintendo advises against doing so "as the lag could potentially make the match unplayable," according to the manual.)

All public games are otherwise restricted to European opponents only. We're sure there's some deep and complicated technical reason for that, but either way it's a bit of awful, and leaves us wondering if all Wii online games (except those with low data transfer like turn-based Pokémon battles) will suffer the same restrictions.

Onto actual gameplay, our connections with (the European-only) opponents have been solid, with no obvious lag. There's no voice or text chat, neither against the public nor friends, so it's all a bit impersonal. But you generally get a much more fun game out of a human, although some people tend to repeat winning techniques, which can get tedious.

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