Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games
With Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, I feel like I’m
writing a review of a marketing plan, not a game. Combining two of
gaming’s legendary characters with the world’s most famous sporting
event translated into worldwide sales of over 10 million copies for
Sega and Nintendo last time around, so a sequel was virtually
guaranteed. Two years later, the duo is back and looking for more
filthy lucre at the Vancouver Winter Games.
I had a good idea of what I was in for before I even popped the disc into the Wii. The game features 27 events, a good number on paper, but one that’s somewhat misleading. Many of the events – like alpine skiing or snowboarding – don’t feel particularly different from each other unless you use the Wii Balance Board functionality, a feature that doesn’t warrant the time it takes get the Wii to sense the peripheral.
Some events are better than others, with the more race-oriented events like skeleton, skiing, and snowboarding usually reaching a level of acceptable gameplay. That said, the skiing isn’t as good as it was in Wii Ski, and the snowboarding as good as in Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip, so there isn’t a lot of benefit here to anyone but the most ardent Mario and Sonic fans. The other events range from fairly entertaining (dream gliding and dream snowball fight) to annoying (hockey, speed skating). Before you ask “What the heck is dream gliding?” – let me explain. No, you didn’t miss it in the last Olympics, it’s a hang-gliding style game that takes place in a weird, Mario-and-Sonic themed aerial environment. The developers have added a few odd events like this, which are fairly fun but distance the game even further from its Olympic origins.
The game also features challenge matches with rivals like a giant robot or Jet, a Sonic character that looks like a Hedgehog with a beak. Apparently, he exists, and is really good at speed skating (at least I learned something in writing this review). These annoying matches are identical to the regular events, being distinguished only by the fact that you have to beat them to proceed to the merciful end of the game. Is it more fun with friends? Perhaps, in the sense that misery loves company. I’d knock the game for not having online multiplayer if I actually thought anyone would bother to play it.
In general, the minigames work about as well as Wii games always do: just enough to prevent me from calling them broken. For all Nintendo’s claims that the Wii was going to empower developers with brave new mechanics, the reality is that we’re already to the stage where motion control schemes seem just as clichéd as any console two-stick FPS formula – but without the accuracy necessary to convey compelling gameplay. Functional but not fun, Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games is a product that’s destined to sell...and destined to be forgotten.