Review: Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

It seems like only yesterday that DK ripped off his tie and wrapped it around his groin in a bid to honour our beloved Tom Daley yet here we are once again preparing ourselves for the Olympics with the unlikely mix of Mario and Sonic.

As with previous titles the release date gives us a few months to get fired up for the winter sports that await, and to finally get us used to those awful mascots. But will Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games (breathe!) have us feeling warm and fuzzy or leave us out in the cold?

On the surface, the game does seem largely unchanged from the last outing in London. All the same characters are featured, the graphics are barely any different (though from the looks of the gorgeous Wii game, all it really needed was the addition of HD) and it features similar upbeat music; a fusion of orchestrated tunes with awesome beats and a fantastic selection of classic (and remixed) songs from previous games in the Mario and Sonic universe. So far then, all of the things that made the previous titles great are unchanged. So, what's new?

The controls are perhaps the biggest new draw to this title. Previous titles used the Wii Remote in a bunch of different ways, but as the series progressed, it become more apparent that SEGA were limited with what they could achieve. By the time the London Olympics had arrived, most games were pretty much the same thing in a new skin. The Wii Remote controls were always very simple, perhaps to avoid inaccuracy or a lack of recognition from the controller but finally, the Mario & Sonic Olympic committee has granted the use of Wii Motion Plus, and what a great addition that is.

mariosonic5Straight away, all that you've come to expect out of these games is thrown out the window. As soon as I saw Speed Skating, I assumed I'd just have to furiously waggle the remote but to my surprise, the controls are actually quite complex. To Start, you bend your arm back with the Wii Remote Plus in hand, before lunging it to your top left to launch, from there you'll be swinging your arms left to right in a rhythmic fashion, trying to match the rhythm of your on-screen character, with Perfect scores giving you a faster speed. It may sound simple, but the movements certainly aren't, and it gives you a sense of what to expect in later titles.

From using the Wii Remote Plus like a conductors baton, to turning and pulling off tricks, to perfecting your landing with expert precision, the Wii Remote suddenly requires a lot of precise twisting, turning and movement, the kind of thing you'd almost forgotten could be achieved with Motion Plus. Indeed, I'd gotten so used to the old ways of motion controllers that my few lazy flicks and twists were registered as being as lazy and floppy as they really are, instead of letting me off and giving me gold like the previous titles would have.

Sadly though, this added depth comes at a price. Whilst the London Olympics had fully refined the Wii Remote controls after years of practice, the controls in this title are pretty rough around the edges. I found myself gliding down the Ski slope perfectly but then suddenly making a sharp turn left and crashing into the wall. This was due to no fault of my own, as I hadn't suddenly flicked my wrist to the left, but it turns out the Wii Remote needed re-calibrating. In fact, this happens quite often, and if you're playing for an hour or so, you're bound to come into these kinds of problems at least once. Whether this is a problem with the software or the Wii Remote Plus itself isn't certain, but it's a big problem that affects the game all the same.

When the Wii Remote doesn't need recalibrating though, the controls are very precise and a joy to pull off. It's not just the Wii Remote you'll be using in all games, as some make great use of the Wii U GamePad and others use both control methods, which are surprisingly satisfying. The Biathlon requires you to use the Wii Remote Plus to Ski faster than your opponents, before grabbing hold of a GamePad rifle. The GamePad is used as a zoomed in view, using the gyroscopes to aim. After you've shot the targets, you put the GamePad back down and get back to the Skiing action. It sounds like it could be cumbersome, but it's actually carried off really well, and it's these kind of games that shine the brightest, as they really do use the host hardware to its fullest.

WiiU MarioSonic scrn05 E3
With Motion Plus and the GamePad, the gameplay is vastly improved and a lot deeper than in previous titles but how is the quality overall? This title offers up 10 normal and 10 Dream Events, slightly less than previous titles in the series, but they do tend to have more depth than what we're used to in the Mario & Sonic games. Still, it's a mixed bag.

The 'normal' events certainly suffer from a lack of variety. In fact, five of the ten normal events involve you skiing or snowboarding down a slope, with slight changes in control methods depending on the gear you use. It's interesting to try the new Motion Plus controls in Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard but they will only keep your attention if you have a lot of friends at hand or scores to beat. The normal events in general lack a certain amount of fun once the novelty of the new controls and the inclusion of famous faces has worn off. They're not bad, they're just so bland and lifeless, and if you've played a Mario & Sonic Winter Olympics before, apart from improved controls, you'll know exactly what to expect.

Thankfully though, the Dream Events are as high quality as always, and considering the inclusion of a huge Mario and Sonic cast, it's a shame SEGA don't provide more Dream Events rather than having them play a secondary role to the official Olympic events. Events such as Groove Pipe Snowboard, which has you snowboarding down a Mario or Sonic themed level in Mario Kart fashion, and especially Snow Day Street Hockey, Ice Hockey set in the wonderful Isle Delfino with the usual addition of random coins, bonus goals appearing in windows and bouncing mushrooms, are so much fun that you'll keep coming back to them, especially for a few multiplayer games. It's just a shame that SEGA limit these games to 2 or 3 different maps. The fact that you'll want to play these maps over and over again is testament to the quality of those games, though.

Each game features local leader-boards and gives you the ability to upload to worldwide rankings if you score high enough, sadly though, it feels archaic. In this day and age, you'd expect it to upload automatically, but instead, it asks you whether or not you'd wish to upload your score each time you finish a game. It doesn't just upload in the background either, all the music stops, controls are frozen and an upload bar appears on screen. If it wasn't for the banners with '2014' pasted all over the screen you'd start wondering whether you'd been transported back in time. Despite the awkward way in which the game goes about uploading scores though, it does actually feature some rather neat online features such as notifications appearing atop the screen telling you when friends have set new high scores or 'interviews' with Omochao which allow you to take a picture of your grinning mug to send to friends along with the highscore you just achieved.

WiiU MarioSonic scrn08 E3Surprisingly, and to the excitement of the many fans of this series, some of the games on offer can be played online. You'll earn medals for each game you win when played online which will go towards the total number of medals for your country and each country will be ranked along one another. It's fun to partake in but sadly restricted to just FreeStyle Ski Cross, Snowboard Cross, Short Track Speed Skating and Winter Sports Champion Race. It would have been really fun to have more games on offer, especially more Dream Events, but it's a step in the right direction for the series.

With the new and improved controls providing added depth, leaderboards and online, this title is better than ever for the single player. You always feel connected to the world and your Wii U friends and there's plenty on offer, such as a single player story mode (though granted, it doesn't offer much of a story) and achievements to aspire to, which can unlock anything from a hat for your Mii to the Sonic Heroes theme.

Whilst the single player offerings excel those seen in previous titles, the multiplayer modes actually suffer. Unlike previous games in the series, or titles such as Wii Party U, the controls in each game are so different, and often quite complex, that you'll spend a lot of time trying to get everyone up to speed with how to handle their characters. This can sometimes take longer than the actual game itself and really ruins the flow of the title. Whilst you can choose to do whichever event you wish in Single Event, there is once again a multiplayer mode on offer. This mode tasks you with not only completing a minigame but also bagging bonus points if you can remember something specific about it (such as the first Bullet Bill to appear on screen) but this sadly doesn't live up to the rather fleshed out London Party found in the previous title on Wii and feels like more of a last minute added extra.

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games is a nice new addition to the series and has really tried to differentiate itself from past instalments with its new control methods and added online mode. For the single player, this is one of the better Mario & Sonic titles but if you're after a fun multiplayer game this Winter, you'll find a much better party experience in games such as Wii Party U or Spin the Bottle: Bumpies Party.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Much like the opening ceremony, you'll be hooked for the first few hours with all the celebrations and the excitement that awaits, but as each game slowly exposes itself to you in the same mundane manner a country walks along with their flag, you'll start wondering just how much more of this you can take before you slowly nod off to sleep.

  • Gameplay3
  • Playability2
  • Visuals4
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan1
Final Score



- New controls are a welcome breath of fresh air
- It's online, finally!
- HD graphics are rather nice


- Many of the games are dull
- Not enough variety
- Multiplayer suffers thanks to complicated controls
- Archaic when it comes to uploading scores
- Less events than previous titles

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