Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Winter Games
Posted 3 years ago By - Zach R.
In just a few short months, Vancouver will be hosting the 2010 Olympic Winter games. The top atheletes from all over the world will be gathering together to compete. Years of training all come down to this moment. The excitement will be palpable. One group of atheletes are getting the drop on the competition this year and inviting you to the games a little early. That’s right, Sonic and Mario are back for a second shot at the gold with Sonic & Mario at the Winter Olympic games. Are they finally ready to take the podium, or will these loveable mascots be heading home empty-handed?
Being that this is the second outing for Sonic, Mario and friends at the Olympic games, Sega seem to have taken the lessons they learned from their first attempt to heart. While the previous effort was solid, the beloved Nintendo and Sega mascots weren’t able to muster a gold medal effort. Unresponsive and poorly planned motion controls made for a game that was tiring, and unrewarding. That said, there was some fun to be had, and it demonstrated that the core idea was a good one, it just needed some fine-tuning.
Thankfully, it seems that the time spent on perfecting the Winter Olympic games has largely paid off. Perhaps it’s the games themselves, but the transition from Olympic sport to slightly off-kilter video game competition feels smoother in comparison to that of the Summer games. From Hockey to snowboarding and all manner of skiing events, the Winter games tend to feel like a better fit overall, especially when you add in the Balance Board functionality.
Each game has its own niche appeal, so it will come down to a matter of preference, but for sheer entertainment value, there’s a couple of entries that seem better suited to this game than others. Hockey, Curling and Snowboarding are all a blast to play, and the pick up and play nature of them is a definite bonus.
Hockey, while not nearly as refined as the 2K series version of the game, is surprisingly simple, yet offers a satisfying take on the sport. Simply mapping the shoot and check functions to a shake of the Wii remote isn’t an overly complex system, but it’s effective for what it’s worth, and incredibly fun. There’s a little embellishment on things here, as the hockey puck will ignite the more you pass, making it harder for the goal-tender to hang onto. There’s also only two periods in the game, and at about one minute each, the game doesn’t overstay its welcome, but also feels a little too short considering just how enjoyable it is.
While hockey lacks refinement, the curling is actually very much refined, making for a satisfying representation of a sport that’s not usually regarded as overly exciting. Not much has been done to the core of the game itself. You’re still tossing a rock down the ice, and sweeping the path clean. There’s no real flavour to the proceedings, but the game stands as one of the few to represent its sport realistically, allowing little twists of the remote to control the pitch of your throw, and the throw-meter is nicely tuned to easily control the power of it.
While both of those games are remote only affairs, the Balance Board will come into play with the Snowboarding option (out of the games I’ve mentioned). As has been the case in the past, the Balance Board proves to be instrumental in providing a fun experience to players, as the Wii remote only controls are functional, but don’t feel like a full experience. There are two types of snowboarding events, but to be honest, it’s the half-pipe that really shines here. Hitting jumps and performing tricks will take a bit of time to learn how to nail, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll find yourself coming back to it again and again. Using four points on the balance board will determine what type of tricks you’ll be doing, with the controller adding your grabs. Again, the system isn’t all that intricate, but the pick up and play nature of it is solid, and most of all fun.
In all, there are 27 events and most are playable. The one area that really works here are the Dream events, which are a returning feature from the last game. While the controls don’t see any big changes, the games themselves throw in some curveballs, such as skiing downhill through the Mushroom Kingdom, or figure-skating over Mario-style obstacles. The ability to hurl turtle shells at opponents definitely make it more enjoyable to race downhill. Overall, this is what I think most people want to see in a Mario and Sonic game. Setting them in real Olympic competition is fine, but it can be a little dry, so the Dream events make up for the lack of Mario-isms elsewhere in the game.
While you can play through any event in exhibition style matches, the main mode on offer taking the place of last years Circuit Mode, is Festival Mode. This is where the game tries to emulate the feel of the Olympics over the course of 17 days, from opening to closing ceremonies. Each day you’ll get the chance to compete in different events events, or training (which has no effect over stats), and at times you’ll be challenged by rivals. There isn’t a whole lot of depth to this mode, and the competition is a bit light, but overall, it serves as an improvement over last years Circuit mode.
Single player is nice, but multiplayer has always been the standout of minigame collections like this. You can jump straight into events from the menu, but if you feel so inclined, there’s also a party game section that includes Balloon Burst, and a Panel Flip game. It’s a nice idea to have the party mode here, but with the exception of Panel Flip, which has you competing in events while earning squares on a board-game style board, they tend to come off as a little weak. Thankfully, there’s plenty of multiplayer action on offer without the Party Game section, as Team Festival and exhibition modes can support up to four players.
Graphics & Sound
Visually, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is on a par with the last game. While the characters, stadiums and CG opening all look nice, I can’t honestly say it’s improved visually over the previous game. The levels that truly stand out are the Dream Events, with the Mushroom Kingdom looking stellar and in sharp contrast to the bland and boring mountains of British Columbia. This may be a Mario and Sonic game, and in reality, the Vancouver area is beautiful, but I expected a little more Sega/Nintendo-esque level personality to shine through.
The audio is what you’d expect from the Sonic and Mario camp. Voices are relatively the same as they’ve you’d expect, and characters really only ever say one or two lines throughout the game. The music is fitting, but isn’t exactly the most exciting or memorable soundtrack ever.
In addition to the 27 games on offer, there’s also a shop to unlock various outfits, decals and designs for your characters. There’s also a library section that lets you purchase facts about the Olympic games. There are a ton of items to unlock, so completionists will have a field day getting everything.
The single player aspect of the game is much more short-lived than the multiplayer, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking about picking this up. It’s a fun game, either way, but it’s definitely one that’s best suited to playing with friends.
If you loved the first Mario and Sonic outing, the Winter Olympics is most definitely a welcome addition to the series. The controls feel less contrived than the previous game, and the addition of Balance Board support makes a huge difference. Perhaps not a gold medal finish, but it’s definitely reached the podium this time around.
+ Looks nice, though lacking in Mario/Sonic flavour.
+ Music is suitable.
+ Dream events make another welcome appearance.
+ Some of the non-dream events are pretty fun...
- Voice acting and music are a little grating.
- Controls can still feel a bit too gimmicky.
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Release Date : 2009/10/13
System : Nintendo Wii
Publisher : SEGA
Developer : Sega
Category : Sports
ESRB : E10+
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10