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Tycho / on Fri, Apr 25 2008 at 12:00 am

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A white box with a black skid mark appeared at the office on Wednesday, sharp with the ozone bite of innumerable blue sparks.  I could go on like this for awhile, as you are probably quite aware.  We could explore a whole range of olfactory stimuli.  Let me slice through it:  Playing the new Mario Kart online is a narcotic experience.  We passed this Goddamned wheel around for an hour, shouting and laughing, watching a globe whirl on the screen to show us which wicked nations harbored our hated foes.

Developing your sparks isn’t about a couple quick button presses now, to be done at absolutely anytime.  It’s about turning into the curve, because the only way to earn potent gold sparks - that’s right motherfucker, gold - is through extended, ever tightening slides.  Presumably this is to mitigate the Snaking scourge, a “fiendish” technique used to powerslide on straightaways.  Fiendish is in “quotes” because while hatred for the technique is widespread, it’s not universal.  For example, I understand that fiends like it.

The gun shell Nintendo offered - the “Wii Zapper” - didn’t feel bad, but its actual utility is severely constrained.  I found Link’s Crossbow Training far more enjoyable than I expected, but then my expectations were so low they could only be discovered with the help of state-of-the-art tools, a government grant, and the world’s top geologists.  Media events we had seen online suggested that the Zapper was the appropriate way to play RE: Umbrella Chronicles, but we found quite the opposite was true:  there were means of use that were made difficult or physically uncomfortable with the controller bound up in the thing.  The Wheel won’t suffer the same fate.  If a game is designed do be played by turning the remote in space, this simply makes that experience better.  Even for a professional cynic, this stupid piece of plastic is startlingly compelling.

We’ve seen the hated Blue Shell less frequently than in games past, but this is probably because we are so rarely in first place - I don’t think they’ve reconsidered their position.  The blue shell (as I have described in other communiques) is that socialist undercurrent that grinds winners and losers together into a smooth paste.  So Nintendo’s much vaunted “blue ocean” “broadening effort,” their attempt to make gaming something everyone might have a chance to enjoy, is at least as old as this azure carapace and probably older.  Taking in the current reviews, the consensus is that - as it relates to Mario Kart - they have trampled some sacred ground.

We don’t have much use for the single player content in a Mario Kart game, so I can’t really speak to claims of bullshit rubberband AI in the Grand Prix.  I think we’re just not hardcore enough about Mario Kart to really feel the flaws I’m reading about - we liked the mutant Double Dash as well, which was also spurned as the flailing of a decrepit series.  We think the game is fun to play.  The motorcycles - unable to create gold sparks, but able to claim an easy “wheelie” boost on straightaways - have been fun, but not life changing.  The boost-tricks you can perform off jumps and the new half-pipes are nice additions to the new tracks, but they also spice up the classic maps from previous versions.  I understand that people are disappointed in the lack of voice chat - we resolved this by sitting in the same room as one another.  You may discover other workarounds.

I had the opportunity to tuck a Star Control homage in the strip, and I did so - creating a single comic which satisfies all USRDA requirements.

(CW)TB out.

a man without weapons is a slave


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