Even though Mario and Sonic have been the best of buddies for over a year now it still doesn’t sit right with me somehow. It’s not as if Mario and Sonic were ever deadly enemies but being opposing mascots was enough to divide opinion between Nintendo and Sega fans; personally I’ve always preferred Mario to Sonic. I still feel uncomfortable when meeting someone who preferred or still prefers Sonic games.
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games could be considered a sequel to last year’s title but I’d describe it as more of a complimentary game. Because it doesn’t feature any of the original mini games from the previous Mario and Sonic game you could easily own both without worry. Now I’ll own up and admit to you I didn’t like the original Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games as it was full of over the top waggle controls; but I’m more than willing to give Sega a second chance in my Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games review.
Just as with Sonic and the Black Knight; this game features a truly stunning FMV intro; sadly that level of graphic fluidity doesn’t carry on into the rest of the game but more on that later. If you played the previous game you’ll already know to expect to be able to control your favourite characters from the Mario and Sonic franchises in genuine recreations of the games and locations of the upcoming Olympic festival. This time we’re in snowy Vancouver with a whole host of chilly mini games on offer; Skiing, Skating, Snowboarding, Skeleton, Bobsleigh, Hockey, Curling and many more. As you’d expect there are three main ways to play this Olympic themed party fest; first your typical story mode (Festival) where you on your own or with some buddies can play through an entire Olympic festival in search for those gold, silver and bronze medals. Secondly you can just pick an event in single match mode you can just pick your favourite game and attempt to beat your records. Finally though Party Mode gives you all of the fun events from the story mode but stripped down into your typical Wii Party format, which funnily enough is great for parties.
For me most of the fun of Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games for Wii came from the festival story mode. This mode gives you and your friends the opportunity to head through a great selection of Olympic events in competition against popular Sega and Nintendo characters. To spice things up even further Sega have cleverly split up the Olympic festival into days in which you’ll sometimes be taking part in training, sometimes events themselves and even some special Dream Events. Now as it is this time around all of the events in this game are actually very fun in themselves; but these Dream Events must be my favourite. The reason I love the Dream Events is that they are a total warp away from the Olympic environment, instead Sega have mixed up classic Sonic and Mario game themes into the sports. Great examples are Dream Ski Cross where you Ski through a Super Mario Galaxy style level and Dream Alpine which lets you Ski through a snowy Green Hill Zone esque Sonic level. There are Sonic Rings and Mario Coins all over the place and even those item crystals from Mario Kart get an appearance. These are perfect additions which will bring smiles to the faces of core gamers among players who maybe feel the party game theme is below them.
Obviously the fun doesn’t end there; every time you take part in an event you will earns points to spend in the shopping area. There are literally hundreds of things to buy; everything from new items of clothing and equipment to decorative stickers to glitter your boards with.
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is a very enjoyable single & multiplayer experience; unlike the previous game the controls are light, accurate and use the motion controls perfectly. Instead of asking you to wave your arms about like crazy giving yourself terrible arm ache, almost all of the games require gentle waving and leaning motions with the occasional forceful movement. I can’t explain how much off a relief it was not to have to throw my arm about and get hit in the face with the Nunchuck cable. Now that FMV intro I mentioned is indeed gorgeous but sadly the ingame graphics don’t quite live up to it; the character models are fine but the environments are a little lacking. Another grumble is that slowdown can affect multiplayer games when lots of things are on screen. My biggest complaint however is that the sprawling arena crowds are made up of horrid 2D low res character sprites which looked like they’ve been ripped right out of the 2D Mario and Sonic games and plonked right into this 3D engine.
Graphical grumbles aside, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter games is my favourite third party causal game on Wii. You won’t have more fun playing games with your family on a Sunday afternoon unless you already own Mario Kart Wii or Wii Sports Resort. An almost perfect 8 out of 10.
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