Review: Mario & Sonic Olympic Winter Games (Wii)
Posted 19 Nov 2009 at 02:18 by Mark Lee
|"For a somewhat artificial difficulty increase, use the balance board... Just don't blame us when you fall into the TV."|
When Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games arrived on Wii back in 2007 the general consensus was positive. Not only had Mario and Sonic teamed up resulting in millions of fanboy's all over the world bed-wetting, the game was also a nice retro-refit of the old track and field games. And with ten million Wii owners going on to own the title, Mario and Sonic's first outing was a revelation for both Nintendo and SEGA.
So surprisingly (or not) here we are again, ready to do battle against each other in a wealth of serious events and a ton of 'dream' events - each more surreal and fantastical than the last. So sit back, pull on your winter warmers and settle into our extensive Olympic-sized review...
Keeping in tune with the original title, M&S whimsically entices you into its world via a beautifully produced cinematic at the beginning of the game. Looking stunning and setting the scene perfectly this introduction blew us away and as we delved deeper into the game we found that the presentation throughout the package had been dialled up resulting in a far slicker look over the original game. As we cavorted around the menus looking to see what SEGA had delivered we also noted that these Olympics seemed to offer a lot more content than the original...
WINTER GAMES FESTIVAL: (1-4 Players)
Delivering what is essentially the main crux of the title, The Winter Games festival mode takes you through a 16-day Olympic festival offering many events, a fair few shopping opportunities and tons of battles with foes you probably thought you'd never see here. The festival mode is enjoyable, gives the package a cohesiveness which the first game lacked and brings about a means to unlock content in a manner in which you would expect from a traditional videogame.
Just like in the original title, for those wishing to have a quick game in the event of their choice, the single match option reigns supreme.
BALANCE BOARD: New to M&S, the Balance Board presents a wealth of new event opportunities. There is some serious fun to be had here yet the sensitivity of the board as well as the ability for only one board to be used puts a damper on the potential. Still... most of the events really suit the board, (even though some are repeats from other titles it is nice to have a lot of these events in a unified package) and we guarantee you'll revisit this area when there are a group of people looking for laughs.
TRAINING: Offering a multitude of training goals in each event, the training mode suitably impresses with its fun goals and genuine attention to detail. For older and younger gamers it's a well deserved option but due to the actual simplicity of the controls, this option will rarely get used.
PARTY GAMES: Offers an alternative delivery to just picking your favourite events. The party mode is focused around balloon popping, wheel spinning and panel flipping and choosing random events in-between. Fun in short bursts, but Cream the Rabbit annoys and the drawn out text is a million miles away from just jumping into the events and having a blast.
SHOPPING: Proving that M&S (that's Mario and Sonic, not Marks & Spencers you Brits) is a jack of all trades, shopping gives you the option to buy decals for accessories and events as well as new costumes. Special mention must go to the excellent music jukebox and the character body suits for your Mii's. Seeing your Mii dressed up as Mario and Sonic characters is too cute for words.
WIFI RANKINGS: See how much better the Americans are at the events with online rankings. Does what it says on the tin and you'll even get an 'emblem' for connecting. Imagine if Nintendo DID achievements and trophies. Whoring out comes to mind...
Yes the content is there, yes the options for multiple party set-ups are there and the festival mode certainly adds a ton of longevity and replayability for the lonesome gamer. Throw in the tweaking of the presentation as well as slicker loading times, slightly improved graphics and the added character roster and M&S appears to be everything a sequel should be!
Or is it? Read on to find how the actual events pan out, and those important final scores – will Mario and Sonic reign over their Summer outing or end off bailing into the snow?
Alpine Skiing (Downhill/Giant Slalom): The aim? Pretty simple actually. Hold a single wii remote or wii remote and nunchuck combo like ski poles and twist your way to the bottom of the course. Miss the gates and you'll incur the wrath of the time penalty. The player with the fastest time at the finish wins. Remember to use the A button for your one stock boost! For a somewhat artificial difficulty increase, use the balance board... Just don't blame us when you fall into the TV!
Ski Jumping (Team/Individual): Ski Jumping is set up exactly like Wii Fit's Ski Jumping game but now those limbless members of the family can play with added remote/nunchuck control setups! (Flick 'up' to leap off the end of the ramp and 'down' to land.) Fun but not a patch on Wii Fit's extra sensitive version.
Freestyle Skiing (Moguls/Ski Cross): With a control setup exactly like Alpine Skiing you may think it's a carbon copy event, but with added bumps, ramps and air tricks whoever makes it to the finish line first wins.
Snowboard (Halfpipe/Snowboard Cross): Snowboard Cross is exactly like the Freestlye Skiing event but with one plank of wood instead of two. The half pipe is all about as deep as a puddle and involves you waggling your arms off when your character is airborne. Fun the first time but not an event you'll return to with any regularity.
Speed Skating (500m/1,000m/Relay): Speed Skating brings back memories of the original title's 100m dashes. Waggle like there's no tomorrow and shunt the controller left and right in time with the flashing arms of the characters (simple after a few goes) down the final straight. Fun in groups as on your own you just look like you're throttling the TV remote!
Figure Skating: Utterly bonkers. (Especially if you pick one of the bruisers!) As your character skates around the rink to classical music you must perform motions at specific target points. Good fun, if a little too simplistic to warrant any long-term play. Much better in Dream Mode...
Bobsleigh/Skeleton: Random Factoid #238: Cool Runnings is the greatest Bobsleigh film ever made... This isn't half bad neither. With the balance board it becomes one of the best party games 'ever' (especially with 4 players) and with nothing but a wii remote it is merely 'meh'. Hold your controller vertically to your chest and lean to control the bobsleigh/sled as it rips by a coloured marker on the track. The longer you stay in this marker the faster you'll go. Skeleton must be called so as if you fall off your one-man sled (you lie belly down) you'll be stripped of all your skin in an instant. Especially if you are nothing but a hedgehog... Ouch!
Ice Hockey: Ice Hockey is great fun with a bunch of people but not so much on your own. It's nigh on impossible to score without passing the puck around a zillion times and the AI is either super-human or super-crud. With friends it's one of the deeper experiences to be had but on your own it's a big let down.
Curling: One of the best events in the game. Curling works like a cross between wii sports bowling and a sweeping simulator. Sublime with friends and challenging enough on your own to take the gold. Great fun.
DREAM EVENTS: (Team/Individual): The Dream Events were a nice touch in the original title and have been vastly expanded upon here. With more music, more events and more crazy additions, SEGA really went to town with the Dream scenario.
Dream Alpine returns with a lovely twist as does Ski Jumping which actually betters the normal event. We won't ruin the surprise for you but it's 'out of this world'. Ski and Snowboard Cross are equally as imaginative and fun and due to the track design go on to better the bland original events. The Dream Short Track (which is basically Speed Skating) is handled well but all of these Dream Events pale in comparison to the Dream Figure Skating which offers so much nostalgia, brilliant design and cheeky nods that it is worth the admission price alone.
Dream Bobsleigh is a poor man's rainbow road-esque outing which fails to deliver whilst Dream Ice Hockey plays like Mario Strikers Charged (read: Item blocks and gargantuan stadia). Rounding out the Dream Events are Dream Curling, (which is more like bowling), Dream Snowball Fight which is basically dodgeball (and has a nice one-more-go factor) and Dream Gliding. As this is the last Dream Event, working like a dog fight in the sky, it feels like a pointless addition.
Head below for those all-important scores...
N-Europe Final Verdict
Mario and Sonic return with slicker, more varied events, yet its still only the Dream Events which really hold the entire package together. Yet the game's accessibility, variation and production values make this a top-tier party game on Wii.
Longer than most party games
Numerous control options
Something for everyone to enjoy
Shallow for lone players
Lacklustre ‘normal' events