Mario and Sonic At the Winter Olympics Sochi 2014 Review (Wii U)
The mustachioed fiend and his blue blur of a friend have returned for snowfall, this time on the Wii U (yes, OS is reviewing a Wii U game again!). Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 has been out since November, but the review hits just in time for the start of the real Sochi games. The two, along with their rag-tag group of followers, venture off into more random and crazy party games. But with the marketing campaing, and the obvious feel of a Mario Party title, do the Sochi Games truly stack up to a worth-while video game purchase?
With the Wii U technology – namely the Gamepad – one would think that Sochi 2014 might begin to break the barrier that’s been holding back party games for some time. With Wii Sports still being considered one of the few go-to party games, the genre (albeit a weak one) has slowly been declining as the new console generation has migrated to store shelves. With previous iterations of Mario and Sonic games being received poorly, can the Wii U – and in this case Sochi 2014 – save the series, and the genre?
There are 24 mini games in Sochi 2014, and there’s one issue with most of them: they all feel the same. Whether you’re skiing, skating or curling, the Wii Mote motion is nearly identical, even though most events are a step-by-step process (which almost makes the game feel like a chore.
One of the first events I tried was the Ski Free Jump. You start by waiting for the wind to pick up, and once it does you pull down on the Wii Mote. Next, hold B until you’re in the jump zone (like similar games, you’re graded on timing), then pull up once you reach the pinnacle of the ramp. It doesn’t end there as you must guide your character with the Wii Mote through updrafts to help grab more air. Once you’ve successfully (or failed miserably) at hitting each updraft, swing your arm to the side to “strike a pose” as you land. That’s a lot of stop-and-go; there’s no fluidity.
Curling is another game that sounded like it might be pretty fun and interactive, especially with a group of friends. Before you begin, you plan a strategy on the Gamepad by drawing a line to your target (not a joke). You swing down to up (weird, right?) to push, and then wiggle the remote back and forth as you try and push your piece to the center of your target. You do that four times twice. And it lasts about 5 minutes a round; way too long for something that just lets you wiggle the remote.
Not all games are that bad. Ice Hockey is easily the best, but it just feels like a dumbed down mini version of an NHL arcade game. It’s not bad, but for cheaper than Sochi 14, I can find a much better alternative.
The game also has various ways to play the mini games. They have the typical Medley Mania and Showcases that we all know and (kind of) love. But there is one new mode that caught my eye. Action & Answer Tour pits you in mini games, but adds a twist of trivia. For example, in a ski race, you’re told to look out for four of the game’s characters on the sidelines. At the end of the race you’re asked in what order the characters appeared. Based on your answer and performance, you’re ranking will adjust. It’s a fantastic concept, but the lack of fun in the games take away from what can become a great game mode.
Mario & Sonic TV is also an added feature that has plenty of potential. On the Gamepad you can keep track of your friends and players across the world. It will keep rankings between you and your buddies, but also track world rankings based on which country you select at the beginning of the game. It has a feel that’s similar to Need For Speed's Autolog system, so we can all safely assume that video games really are attempting to become more of their own social networks.
The TV also has its own broadcast during some mini games on the Gamepad. They’re will be a TV set with characters talking and jabbering about you and the event about to be played, but the idea isn’t completely flushed out. You’ll find yourself waiting for more to come, but nothing else is coming. Once again, another intuitive idea that’s nowhere near its potential.
Sochi 2014 is not a game you need to run out and purchase right now. If you have kids, they’ll fall in love with the characters and extremely easy motion controls. If you’re expecting something on par with previous Mario Party and Wii Sports titles, then gofire up that Wii or Gamecube until something better comes out.
We’re all better off waiting until the real Sochi Games start on February 7.
Learning Curve: Super easy to learn, especially on the fly. You won’t get any headaches, that’s for sure.
Control Scheme: Can you move your arm up, down, left and right? Can you scribble on your Gamepad? If you answered yes to both of those questions, I think you may have an idea of the control scheme!
Visuals: Standard Nintendo graphics. Nothing special, but not bad.
Audio: The music is very well done. It’s what we’ve grown to expect from any Nintendo game.
Multiplayer: If you’re absolutely itching for some party play, then this is one of the few options that can give you halfway decent multiplayer action.