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Mario Strikers online verdict

How the first online Wii game performs

Mario Strikers Charged Football is, as you will by now know, the first online Wii game in 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 you Mii will pop up on Wii consoles across Europe.

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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 recommends 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 naff, and leaves us wondering if all Wii online games (except those with low data transfer like turn-based Pokémon battles or the like) 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 get a generally more fun game out of a human, although some people tend to repeat winning techniques, which can get tedious.

To make things more fun, it is also possible for two people to go online together on one Wii (the Series With a Guest option), letting you both play in co-operation against another opponent, which is a nice bonus feature.

Games only last a few minutes each (there's no option to change this) and you play up to three matches with each opponent. The first team to win two matches wins overall, and is awarded 10 points on the overall tables, which can be viewed via the leaderboard menu. Player stats can also be pulled up on the official Mario Strikers website.

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So there's not much to it, with little-to-no options, no player communication and no online tournaments of any kind. But it's technically sound (albeit locally-restricted) and is the most fun you'll get out of the game beyond getting friends round. But we hope for more fleshed-out online performances from future Wii games.

If you haven't already, read our review of Mario Strikers Charged Football.

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