12-player Mario Kart?

Dash it all

Personally, we loved Double Dash!!, but many didn't. And that was blamed partly on the ditching of the hop-and-skid mechanic of yore. Nintendo haven't just brought the old scheme back - they've thrown in tracks from DD!!, so we can experience that game's exemplary track design with the traditional controls.

The weapons look back to normal too - swapping characters and doubling-up weapons in DD!! was a pain for newcomers; now Mario Kart's back to its accessible best, and there's no excuse for mom not to ditch the Platinum Sudoku for a few blue shells up the ass.

Take it online

And online. After some early tantrums by Nintendo's servers, Mario Strikers Charged proved Wii can work as seamlessly over the 'net as DS - even if the game itself led to some of us puttingour faces through a window in frustration. With 12 players at a time (and possibly more), Mario Kart will be Nintendo's crown jewel of Wi-Fi - the game that puts Wii on the online map. No doubt there'll be official racing tournaments to keep us on our toes, loads of online leaderboards, and, hopefully, decent matchmaking.

But the really big deal is an online Battle mode - something that we didn't see in Mario Kart DS, and a tongue-dribbling treat for anyone who stayed up late with friends to play pop-the-balloon. Block Fort please, Nintendo. Block Fort.

But here's the best thing about Mario Kart Wii: it absolutely guarantees that all those people who were "meh" about Wii before will go out and buy one. In some ways it's a better party prospect than Wii Fit - everyone knows it, everyone loves it, and without the double-kart, character-swapping befuddlement of Double Dash!!, it'll only be off-putting for people who've had some kind of debilitating real-life banana/kart tragedy in their past.

So: when, when, when? Rumors point to Mario Kart Wii hitting the US as early as January, but when it comes to Mario Kart, even tomorrow isn't quick enough.

August 15, 2007