Mario Strikers Charged - Wii Review - 01/06/2007

Mario returns in the Wii's first online adventure, but will his football be as good as his platforming?

This game is modelled on the Gamecube's Mario Smash Football, a game that was met with indifferent reviews and not very high sales figures, which is surprising as it was an extremely fun game - a mixture between a beat 'em up and a traditional football game, with of course added Mario.

Next Level Games haven't changed too many things with this update, a few new characters have been added, new stadiums have expanded on all of the originals and of course Wii specific controls supplement the update.

As with most Mario sport titles, the sport normally takes a back seat in favour of over the top moves and massive power ups, and this game changes little in this respect. Indeed the special moves are not only attributed to the team's captains, with the sidekick characters now also able to score special goals.

Chest it and volley into the top corner? Not if Donkey Kong can help it.

The football is strictly five a side, with a captain and three sidekicks and of course Kritter the goalkeeper making up the squad. You have a choice of intermediate captains such as Mario, Luigi and Yoshi who have average stats - for a boost of speed you would choose Princess Peach or Daisy with Bowser and Donkey Kong rounding out the selection with an increase in power, but less pace. Of course by playing through the game you can unlock more captains to play as. It's a shame that the sidekicks, although varied, are more or less the same en masse.

Each match consists of a three minutes of non stop frantic action - it often feels more like a beat 'em up rather than a football game and with large scores amassed with the signature moves of the captains it can all get a little confusing on screen. Mario Strikers is great fun with that all important Nintendo magic, but if you're looking for a vast update on the original game you will be left disappointed - the games are more or less identical, just with the Wii controls bolted on to fit the console.

Tactics like exploding balls may only be used in the real sport by those cheating Italians, but this is a Mario game.

The major add on for this version is the mega strike, a move charged up by the captains of each team. A power bar dictates how many balls you launch towards goal, up to six at once, and this is where the main use of motion control comes in. If you are on the receiving end of a six goal shot coming towards you, you take control of Kritter the goal keeper and have to move the remote to control your keeper's hands and block out the attempts on goal; it's a nice addition, but you feel all the mega strikes and goal saves are just be a distraction from the football, and it's all a bit messy to be honest.

Did I mention the game cheats? Let me explain, in day's of old, games didn’t have hi-tech A.I. and therefore the enemies often felt 'cheap'. For example in some racing games no matter how good you were the opposition always were just mere seconds from over- taking you. In this game the A.I. controlled players often feel faster, recover quicker and generally receive better power ups than a human controlled team. It really grates when a game beats you by being unfair - OK if you deserved to lose by being rubbish or a goal was scored in the last seconds ending your dreams of winning the cup, but to lose by poor A.I. is disappointing and shows that maybe this game was rushed out early with little playtesting - after all there are only three cups to play through.

Beckham, Alonso? Not many can score from here, but Mario's got a little help from Nintendo on his side.

Another example of this is the un-balanced difficulty level: there are three cups, the first being very easy, with the second cup consisting of ten games in a knockout table, followed by a knockout semi final, followed by a final consisting of a best of three. The trouble is the difficulty is ramped up for this cup, even if you get through the first stage, if you lose the semis or god-forbid the final, you have to play all the way through the first stages again. After losing out to this cup's 'boss' four times and over eighty games later this reviewer turned to almost throwing the disc across the room (don't worry they bounce ;) ). This is poor, poor programming and a sloppy table system which is inexcusable in this day and age especially from Nintendo. And I won't even mention the last cup….

To unlock things you have to play through this mode and some of the unlocks add a lot to the quick play and multiplayer modes, but I could see a lot of people getting VERY frustrated and not bothering, which would be a shame as the rewards you receive make the game so much more fun. To beef up the main game you also have challenges to play through, mainly consisting of coming back from a goal down or scoring loads of goals with a small time limit left. They add a little depth and are a lot of fun, but once again the difficulty levels really are ramped up towards the end and can take the fun out of the title.

The pitch is looking a bit rugged, it's hardly the new Wembley is it? What's that? Wembley's pitch is even worse? Perish the thought.

Of course the main selling point of this game is the free online play, Nintendo always a company to shy away from the online race have made Football the first game to have online Wi-fi. As usual they have watched from the sidelines and come up with a superb online service, which is lag free and easy to set up. The friend codes you can enter means that you only play your trusted friends if you want to, but if you're feeling brave you can play anyone in your region randomly. The system is smooth and getting a game is no problem with many players taking up the offer of free online play; leaderboards are there for the more competitive players, but of course without a voice communicator you don’t hear the trash talk from Xbox live, which is a godsend in itself.

This is a game I so desperately wanted to like, but with dodgy AI and a rushed feel to everything, it's not something to recommend over the excellent original.

- Emerald



Next Level Games