I know it’s still 2009 and the Olympics are ages away yet but that isn’t going to stop Sega from sending out their new Mario and Sonic at the Olympics game and it certainly isn’t going to stop me from reviewing it. Now if you’ve already seen our video review of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games then you’ll know it scored fairly well. Can Sega take that same magic juice and bless the Nintendo DS version with a similar level of goodness? Let’s find out in that aforementioned Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Game review for DS.
First up instead of family party based like its Wii relative, Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics on DS is more of a story single player based affair. I suppose the fact that most people take their DS consoles all around the show and play on the go (unlike me) it makes sense for it to be a more solo experience. That isn’t to say there is no multiplayer fun; there is. It is just more of an addition rather than the whole premise and I’ll come to it later on. Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympic games is split into three distinct modes; adventure, single player and multiplayer. Adventure is the bulk of the game so let’s start there.
As you’d expect from the title you take control of Mario and Sonic; however it’s not all about Speed Skating and gold medals here. If you’d have thought something as giant and complex as the Winter Olympic Games could go without a hitch then you’re a dummy because if you think about it just for a moment then you’d realise that there is just so much that can go wrong. In this instance though what goes wrong isn’t quite what you or I would have expected. Rather than the typical type of things like Olympic Athletes being struck down by food poisoning or being suspected of drug misuse, in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games things are much worse. Who else but the evil Dr Eggman and Bowser have decided to cause trouble. Instead of kidnapping Princesses or Stealing Chaos Emeralds; this time the nasty duo have concocted a more devious plan. They have kidnapped the special Snow Spirits that create the snow for the Olympic Villages; without them here almost all of the events will be impossible. After all you can’t Ski on grass can you?
So Mario and Sonic jump at the opportunity to save the day and are more than ready to take on the challenge. From here you take control of the two heroes as you explore a series of over world maps taking part in Mission Challenges (Olympic Events) against friends and foes. Every time you win a challenge against a friend such as: Tails, Peach, Knuckles and Donkey Kong. They join your roster and they then become available to compete in the next missions. Each character has differing attributes which may or may not make them suitable for a particular sport. Also every completed event sees you win a magic crystal that the Snow Spirits require to create snow and melt ice; you require five such crystals to unlock the next area. Whilst for the most part you’ll just be walking around looking for the next mission there are a couple of other things to do.
Hidden around if you search well enough are some little extra goodies; firstly you can find extra lives which will come in handy for the harder events, secondly there are scrolls that give you background information on the game characters, and thirdly, you will come across maple leaves which provide insight into actual true facts about the Olympics. As you can probably tell this is a just a fairly loose story mode aimed to make playing through each of the events a little more interesting than just picking one from a list. In a similar fashion to the Nintendo Wii version there are eight Dream Events which are a fun addition; these are similar to the traditional Olympic Games but spice things up with things like Rockets attached to your Skis. Whilst I’d agree all this makes things a bit more exciting I was however a bit disappointed by the quite awfully written dialogue. All of the characters you encounter along the way speak like cartoon characters aimed at Nursery school children, and as a semi-mature 27 year old I was a bit grumped out by being made to feel like a kid in what should be a universal feeling game.
So if you’re tired of adventure you can head into playing the games in a more linear single player experience aimed primarily at beating your best scores or into a triad of party games:-
- Bingo Bash is a basic mini game that gets you to match symbols on a card that correspond to those drawn from a random ball machine, of course on its own that would be dull but surprise balls await which can see you having to take part in a quick Olympic Event against the other players.
- Lucky Spin is another randomizer game which puts the four players up against an Event chosen by starting and stopping a wheel with each of the playable events painted on it. There are some items which switch things up a little but it’s still just a random game machine.
- Wild Card sees you compete in random events once more but this time you collect trading cards. The idea is simple; be the first to get 4 matching cards. What makes this exciting is you need to trade your cards with another player to get a full set; this of course gives them the opportunity to beat you to the punch.
Of course a game like this wouldn’t be much fun on your own and luckily there are some multiplayer options; what I’m sad to report is that you will require two or more Nintendo DS consoles to use the Wireless Single Card or Multi Card download play modes. There is no way to play together on one DS unless you count taking turns in the single player games. If you’ve got a friend with a DS you will no doubt have some fun because playing with a friend is always much more fun than playing with CPU bots.
Overall I did enjoy Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter games for DS; it’s a nice looking title and actually pushes the graphical capabilities of the system more than its bigger Wii brother does. All of the games are very fun to play and you can control most of them via the stylus very easily; a few do require DPad and Button controls and they’re fine too. Because this version seems aimed at younger gamers for no real apparent reason, it does mean that it is much easier than I’d like; having a selectable difficulty mode for advanced players would have been a nice option. But in the end it’s still fun to play through regardless of its simplicity.
A title from Sega and Nintendo combined isn’t likely to ever be of poor quality and once again they come up trumps with a quality title. By no means is it perfect but in a world of very rushed shovelware it’s nice to see that a game like this isn’t just rushed out to earn a quick buck when so many other license games are. A solid but slightly lacking 6 out of 10.
Related: video review of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games Wii version review