The 2010 Olympic Winter Games, hosted by Vancouver, Canada, have quite a bit to live up to after the non-stop excitement of the Olympic Games in Beijing. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is in the same position, as its predecessor was quite the hit.
With two of the biggest video game icons in Mario and Sonic, the rest of the Nintendo gang hit the slopes in a game that aims to please the “casuals”. But is this title overshadowed by Wii Sports Resort? Or does it build on top of everything Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games did right?
A primary focus of this game seems to be accessibility. With twenty-seven event types, all of which are unlocked from the start, the combination of variety, and ease of controls are something that will be hit or miss for most. Both of these elements are what will surely provide the most appeal for potential consumers, a majority of which can be classified as the “casuals”.
But despite the casual feel, it can provide a good amount of fun for a group of players. Although this is a quality that the Wii prides itself on, Mario & Sonic falls short of other multiplayer titles on the Wii, most notably Wii Sports Resort. This is primarily due to the overly simple controls, and lack of difficulty.
When first starting Mario & Sonic, it is next to impossible to avoid jumping right in, and trying out your favorite events. Controls are overly simple, which allows anyone to jump in and play, and the tutorials for each event provide gamers of all ages with an informative, step-by-step guide to the controls of the upcoming event – much like the Mario Party series.
For those who invested in Wii MotionPlus, you will be disappointed to find out that Mario & Sonic doesn’t utilize it. However, the simplistic controls, using primarily just the Wiimote, prove almost immediately that this technology is not in any way a necessity. Why? Because a large amount of the controls are nothing more than waggling the Wiimote. But for those who wish to get up off the couch and be more active, which the Wii tries its best to do, you will be happy to discover that the Wii Balance Board is compatible with events such as snowboarding and slaloming.
However, after one or two attempts at each event, gold medals will be almost automatic when playing against the CPU; this can be both good and bad, depending on how you play the game. Multiplayer games with friends and family can prove to be heated competition, as it will be a fight for the top position. But, when playing single player, any feeling of accomplishment is completely lost due to the poor difficulty level.
The most rewarding single player mode is undoubtedly “Festival Mode.” In this game type, you will be given various events on an Olympic schedule. Each event will walk you through the controls, and goal of the event prior to playing it for the first time. These occur in the practice events, which provide a way to ramp-up in understanding and skill.
With only a couple of hours available in this mode, the most rewarding part comes from unlocking dream events. These dream events are very much like the events in the previous Mario & Sonic title. And it is this unique Mario & Sonic twist given to events that provides the most multiplayer fun, as you will find yourself collecting rings, or even playing Mario Kart-style downhill skiing.
For any completionists out there, Mario & Sonic has a huge amount of unlockables and achievements that can be earned through Festival Mode. Coins and achievements are won after each event, and vary depending on your performance in the event. The unlockables, which can be purchased at the shop, include features such as gear for your Mii, decals for your gear, in-game music, and pages of history behind the Olympic Winter Games. Although a cute touch, these unlockables and achievements are extremely gimmicky, and did not draw me in at all. However, for younger kids, I can definitely see the appeal.
All in all, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is a title that will appeal to select gamers. Multiplayer proves to be quite a bit of fun, but over time forgettable. Unfortunately, the dream events, which prove to be the most fun, require unlocking by pushing your way through the single player Festival Mode.
Games such as Wii Sports Resort may not be something most parents are willing to invest in, as it requires the Wii MotionPlus. For those parents, this is a great alternative because it will provide parents with a fun game to play with their kids. But for most, the alternative Wii titles that deliver similar event type multiplayer games, Shaun White Snowboarding, Wii Fit, and Wii Sports Resort all need to be considered when deciding on a good multiplayer Wii title.
Graphically, Mario & Sonic at the Winter Games is about the same quality as the previous Mario & Sonic, but overall it's about what you'd expect from a Wii title.
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Generic waggle controls, and a lack of any real challenge may make this game forgettable for most. Multiplayer is, without a doubt, the way this game should be played.
Average sound effects and music plague the game.
Single player Festival Mode provides only a couple hours of gameplay, but the unlockable dream events are something to play for. Other unlockables such as costumes, and decals are far too gimmicky. Multiplayer is what gives this game most of its legs.
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games brings with it a good amount of events, most of which are done better in other games. This is one of the many Wii titles where enjoyment depends entirely on how it will be played in the household.