|System: Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SEGA||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 22, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Joseph Catalanotto
Mini-game collections are not a rare "commodity" on Nintendo systems -- specifically, the Wii. While its innovation allows for nearly unlimited new gameplay mechanics and exciting game ideas, it seems that one of the most frequent ways that developers take advantage of the hardware is via mini-games.
Now, being a self-proclaimed "hard-core" gamer, I'm no real fan of mini-games. Sure, they're fun for a while, but who wants to shell out fifty bucks for them, really? I'd far rather spend my hard-earned money on a game that's really got some depth to it. Yet, despite my previous bias, I was surprisingly happy with the title Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games for the Nintendo DS.
Actually, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games has already been released on the Nintendo Wii, so there's a good chance that you may already know about the basic premise of this game. If not, however, I'll quickly explain it: the idea here is basically that well-known mascots from both the Mario and Sonic franchises have gotten together and are competing in a slew of Olympic games -- incidentally, all of them are derived from the summer Olympics, seeing as this game is supposedly playing off the upcoming summer Olympics in Beijing.
You're going to start out by selecting a team -- there are sixteen characters in all to pick from, so creating your team is both an important aspect of the game and also one that contributes somewhat to the title's replay value. Each character is ranked in three categories: speed, strength, and skill. Your challenge is to find the right balance among team members to make sure that you can excel at the events that the game provides you with. For example, during a race, a speedy character is going to be helpful, whereas a character with skill might help out more in an event such as fencing.
Of course, the "main attraction," so to speak, of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is the events -- these are the mini-games, which are based off actual Olympic sports. The control scheme is taken care of mostly with the DS touch screen and stylus, and for the most part it works pretty well and intuitively. For example, to compete in a race, you're just going to slide the stylus as quickly as you can toward the finish line -- in some of the shooting challenges, you'll just tap the screen. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games earns some points for the fact that actions you execute in the game make sense. I don't know about you, but I hate it when a Wii or DS mini-game compilation has you making motions or symbols on the screen that just don't correspond with what your character is doing. This title eliminates this problem, and as a result makes it generally more fun to play.
In terms of actual events, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is pretty impressive. There are 16 events in all, and while this may not seem like much, each of them are unique and fun and can easily hold their own against other mini-games in titles on the market right now. Events that you'll partake in range from races (track events) to basic field events to trampoline bouncing and even to crazier events like fencing. There are also some bonus events that you can unlock as you progress further and further into the game, and these are also surprisingly fun. There's also a mission aspect to the game that has you completing different "missions" for each character, which real fans of this game are certainly going to want to complete.
Of course, the risk you always run with a mini-game collection is that some or even a lot of the games aren't all fun, and sadly, that's not a problem that Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is immune to. Actually, there aren't a whole lot of bad games -- maybe just one or two, in my opinion -- but none of the mini-games really stand out as being exceptionally fun. It's not like Mario Party where you may power on the disc every once in a while just to play a specific game or two that you really love. Instead, you can appreciate each game for what it offers, but that's no real reason to really keep you coming back and playing. Naturally, this significantly hurts the game's replayability, but there's still reason to consider investing in this title.