Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Review (Wii)
Two summers ago I finished my first reviewing assignment for Operation Sports, which happened to be for the official game of the Beijing Summer Olympics, Beijing 2008. Despite the fact that Beijing 2008 was on a much more powerful system and was supposedly an "authentic" representation of the Olympic experience, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is an infinitely more pleasing experience when compared to Beijing 2008.
The Games Revisited
If you are familiar with the first Mario & Sonic console game, you will be right at home with this sequel of sorts, which is essentially a collection of mini-games featuring characters from Nintendo and Sega’s flagship franchises. Each short game is based on an actual Olympic event -- to varying degrees of success.
First, it’s important to note that there are not a ton of "shake the Wii remote forever" events, like those found in the original Summer Games version of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. Thankfully, most of the games involve steering, timing and balancing objects on screen.
The best events are those that involve motions somewhat reminiscent of the actual sports. Most of the downhill competitions are simply steering exercises, but the sense of speed and tight controls make those pretty fun. Unfortunately, those experiences make up a pretty big portion of the available mini-games. Steering and jumping, regardless of the context, can become pretty boring after a while.
Figure skating is a pretty predictable rhythm game, although with a bit of a twist (literally). Instead of button pushing, you are flicking, balancing and, yes, twisting the Wii remote to control your on-screen avatar.
Ice hockey represents an event where motion control seems to have been needlessly added. Instead of potentially replicating the original Ice Hockey, you must awkwardly lift and drop the controller to shoot. It does not seem natural or fitting, yet somehow the hockey mini-game is still relatively fun.
The most enjoyable events are those that you unlock through the career mode, called Dream Events. Imagine downhill skiing combined with Mario Kart or ski jumping combined with Super Mario Galaxy. Mix in small amounts of Sonic inspired flair (think rings), and you start to understand the most creative aspects of this game. I’m not sure a full game of Dream Events would work, but when sprinkled in among the "real" events, they are a welcome change of pace.
Overall, the entire collection is pretty tight, with only a few clunkers. And even those clunkers are not terrible enough to make you want to quit.
Mario and Sonic in the same game is about as rare as seeing sasquatch. It just doesn't happen often.
A Festival of Stuff To Do
There are plenty of modes to be found, with the largest being the Festival mode. It simulates the entire duration of the Winter Games, with a few events occurring each day. Included in your events are training activities, which make for excellent tutorials for the various events. This mode is also where you unlock the Dream Events.
I liked that, despite being a game aimed at a younger crowd, this mode presented some level of challenge. I did not win every event, but I also did not have too much difficulty finishing first overall either. Even some training exercises, which all have goals to complete, were challenging to some extent.
Beyond this career mode, there are standard single event and multiplayer modes. There is even a set of Mario Party-like games, where the events serve as a way to lose or gain points.
Another level of fun can be had with the many unlockables found in Mario & Sonic. There are achievement "emblems" for completing certain criteria. There is a shopping district where you can outfit your Mii, buy background music or read about the history of the Olympics. For you completionists out there, it will take you a while to feel satisfied.
Graphically, this game falls in line with other Mario sports games. The official Olympic artwork and styles fit well within the overall tone of the game, and the various details make for a pretty nice looking package.
The mixture of Sega and Nintendo characters also works well. Just about all of your favorite franchise faces are here, and each one has different characteristics. You can also use your Mii if you want.
There are no online modes here, but just like pretty much all the other Wii sports games out there, this game works best as a multiplayer experience. You can also use the Wii balance board.
While I think anyone can have some fun with this game, I would especially encourage fans of Olympic sports, Mario, Sonic or all three to check this game out (which is kind of a "duh" statement I suppose).
In the Snow: There are varied and creative events, plenty of modes and lots of unlockables. Those factors and the familiar characters make the gameplay very enjoyable, assuming you like this sort of thing. It will not win over anyone who does not already like these games, but it’s a very solid title.
Graphics: Good. Style and presentation make for a fun and light experience that is full of Olympic flourishes.
Sound: Not much to praise or criticize here -- standard Mario fare. I like that the original game music can be purchased in the "shopping plaza."
Entertainment Value: There’s a lot of game here for $50, especially if you are or have a kid, like the Olympics/Sonic/Mario and like collecting stuff.
Learning Curve: Most of the events are pretty straight forward, and all the controls are clearly presented on-screen. The game is especially easy to grasp if you play through the career mode.
Online: Nothing beyond leaderboards.
Score: 7.5 (Good)