Babel Babel Update and Mario Kart Wii

Babel Babel Screenshot

Babel Babel Screenshot

Babel Babel got a major graphical update yesterday, the lighting looks much better now, with shadows finally being visibly cast into the arena. Most of the time we were struggling with the usual problems you get when you’re exporting models from Maya for HL2. Textures not working, invisible props etc. We’ve had all these problems before, but somehow you always forget one of the 1000 possible solutions that you have to use this time. We also had a bunch of ideas on how to improve the look even further, so stay tuned for more updates in the future. You can take a look at a bunch of screenshots at the new website for the game here.

On another note, I was able to strike one of the games from my list and got myself Mario Kart Wii. Since I’ve never really played previous games in the series, I can’t compare it to those games. The plastic wheel supplied with the game surprisingly for me didn’t feel as gimmicky as I thought it would, since it’s actually more comfortable to hold the controller this way than without the wheel. Sliding into corners with the Wii wheel and steering works quite well and is one of the best parts of the game. However, I often found it annoying how difficult it can be to take some corners since the turn circle of the karts seems to be really big – or the wheel doesn’t register extreme steering angles very well. The bikes are especially annoying to control. While it works pretty well in principle, if you want to win races, you’ll have to make use of every turbo opportunity you can get. And having to move the wheel up for a wheelie and down again to disable the stunt just didn’t do it for me, it’s a really awkward movement and it often doesn’t register at all in critical moments. Playing with the Gamecube controller definitely works better for bikes for me.

I also found the menus a little annoying and complicated, the options menu for example is hidden at the profile selection screen and exchanged with a different menu one screen later. There are a lot of buttons to push before you can actually start the race, especially in online multiplayer. This is one of the better parts of the game, online support was desperately needed for Wii anyway. My favourite so far is the time trial ranking screen, which has a graphical display of where your time is compared to everybody else’s records. You can also challenge various trial times here by downloading ghost data.

The graphics are OK, not Super Mario Galaxy of course. Some tracks are relatively ugly though, I just can’t find myself liking the “retro”-mode 7-tracks from the SNES and GBA, because they just look very boring and bland in real 3D. If I was a fan of the previous games, I’d probably appreciate them more. But they’re really missing the three dimensional design of the other tracks, with hills and valleys. The music is really annoying in part too, mainly because it still sounds like cheap MIDI. I hope Nintendo will some day change this “tradition.” Speaking of music, I was unable to find a menu that lets me turn down the music volume and only keep the sound effects. But maybe it’s buried somewhere and I just don’t see it.

The last point to make about the game would be the power ups. I heard that reviewers are saying it’s one of the biggest issues of the game, and it’s true for the most part. It doesn’t matter that much if you’re a skilled driver anymore, because if you’re bad, you’ll get power ups to bring you back to front, and if you’re good, others will see to it that you don’t win by using those very same power ups. A racing game that really had the power ups figured out and done right was Re-Volt. I still play it from time to time, and I really recommend it if you’re into that kind of racing games.

Despite sounding very negative, I was able to squeeze some fun out of the game so far. I guess it really shines in multiplayer, but I have yet to play a splitscreen game. However, it feels rather unbalanced in part, so it’s probably safe to say that it’s one of the worse games in the series. I should do some comparison in the future.

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