Nintendo's deliriously addictive soccer game features cutesy characters from the Mushroom Kingdom. Plus: Two new casual games

By Jon Grover
Updated August 16, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Mario Strikers Charged
(Nintendo; Wii; Everyone)

It seems that when the good (and evil) citizens of the Nintendo?s Mushroom Kingdom want to relax, they get together on a playing field and engage in some healthy athletic competion. Mario Strikers Charged is the latest sports-themed title featuring these familiar pixelated characters (like Mario, Peach, and Yoshi) — and the first for the Wii console.

These four-on-four soccer matches are given the full Mario & Co. treatment, which means you should expect plenty of turtle-shell projectiles and speed-enhancing mushrooms (which, we can presume, are not banned substances in this world). Likewise, a nice selection of (appropriately cartoon-y) stadiums will challenge even veteran players by adding obstacles like giant, ravenous Chain Chomps or exploding lava-filled rocks.

Overall, the gameplay is fast-paced and fun, making nice use of the Wii’s unique control capabilities and injecting just enough comic randomness to keep the game accessible and entertaining for folks who wouldn?t know a striker from a strike-out. Perhaps the biggest and best new feature is the inclusion of online play, which allows you to compete against opponents from around the world. (Disappointing, however, is the need for elaborate ”friend codes” specific to Strikers, which are frustratingly incompatible with the codes many Wii users have already painstakingly accumulated.) Still, if you?re willing to put up with the hassles of finding an online opponent, Mario Strikers Charged should offer countless hours of light-hearted fun. B+

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