Hands on: Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

Sega and Nintendo's relationship continues to grow, with the fourth Mario & Sonic title, Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, recently announced for the Wii U and 3DS. Like its predecessors, players can choose characters from either franchise and compete in real world sports.

The largest difference between this title and previous ones is the introduction of the GamePad and how that is used in events. We only got to play three events, which shall be discussed later, but the full game promises to have events that switch between the GamePad and Wii controls.

Mario & Sonic at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic GamesWithin the three events that we played, there were a mix that were played with either the GamePad, Wii Remote or either control method. We started out on downhill skiing, twisting and turning the GamePad to make our way down the piste. Tilting the GamePad forward increased the speed, while flicking it upwards at a jump increased your range. While we didn't play with the Wii Remote, there's a good chance the same concept applies. Using the GamePad while playing on the TV was fine, but when having to look at the screen of the GamePad during multiplayer suddenly moving the GamePad felt obstructive.

Following this, we jumped into a bobsleigh. After a button-bashing run-up, we had to leap in and the GamePad player was in charge. Using the GamePad's gyroscope, the bobsleigh was controlled by tilting and pressing the shoulder buttons to help get around tighter corners. The Wii Remote players (of which there can be up to three) were there to assist if the leader wasn't doing a very good job, offering a balancing force to make your way down.

Finally, there was a downhill dash that saw players alternate between skis, ice-skates, bobsleigh and a snowboard. Or, at least that was the idea. At this point the demo seemed to have a technical glitch, seemingly due to a poorly configured Wii Remote MotionPlus, which meant that the character was not responding how you would expect. This led to the Nintendo-supplied assistant taking control and forcing his way down, rather slowly, the track as there was no way to exit.

Mario & Sonic at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic GamesPutting aside the technical problem (they happen after all), it looked like it could be an interesting event at full speed. The track was ever changing, with patches of snow and ice providing different benefits depending on your method of transport. There was about six gates that changed your vehicle, depending which one you went into, so things were ever changing. I feel that these events could well be the most interesting. Most events you find you're either good at or bad at and while you can practice, it can become frustrating. Mixing up the events helps to keep things interesting.

Ultimately, at this stage in the series it is unlikely that new players will be drawn in. The focus here is on the new play methods introduced by the GamePad and adding new events for fans of the franchise. In this regard, it is difficult to say at this stage how good Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games will be, but if you enjoyed the rest of the titles you'll probably end up enjoying this too.

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