|Dev: Square Enix|
|Release: February 7, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p|
by Josh Wirtanen
Mixing Mario with sports is definitely not a new thing. He's had a flirtation with all sorts of non-Goomba-stomping activities in the past, including baseball, tennis, soccer, kart racing, and golf. But there is a sort of charm that Mario brings to everything he gets involved in. He's like that friend who is always recommending new things you think you won't like, and ends up being right an obnoxiously high percentage of the time.
The newest Mario title, Mario Sports Mix, attempts to spread Mario's charm to four sports at once. While they all share the common Mario elements, like familiar characters and over-the-top powerups, each game is its own unique beast.
Basketball is a very satisfying and well-paced game that is simple to get into yet has some complex nuances. You'll have a blast right out of the gate, but the game continues to get more interesting as you get more into the strategic aspect. For instance, on slam dunks, timing is extremely important. You'll also have to choose carefully when to go for a layup, when to attempt a combo move, when to fake out your opponent, or when to go for the shot. There is an almost rock-paper-scissors element to close-range shooting, as every type of shot has a countermove to block it.
Hockey is fast-paced and slightly heavier on the button-mashing than basketball. And it's insanely fun. You'll have Shy Guys for goalies, but I don't think they can see out of those adorable masks of theirs. Don't put too much faith in the abilities of these Shy Guys; they won't keep the puck out of the net very often. Of course, this means you'll have to think both offensively and defensively as you set up your second-by-second strategies.
Dodgeball is less entertaining. While it's an interesting concept, it feels like it draws too heavily on luck. Every time a ball is tossed at you, you have the ability to catch it, often turning the match into an endurance test between two players who can both catch the ball just as easily. Tosses can be charged and every character gets a special move, but you won't have much difficulty dodging anything that is thrown at you.
Volleyball feels like it was added last minute. My biggest complaint is that the control scheme doesn't work very well, and all too often, I found myself surprised at what my on-screen character did in response to the action I performed with the Wiimote. Trying to make these guys do what you intend will make you feel like someone just broke all ten of your fingers. Besides running and setting up your spikes, both of which are controlled by the joystick on the nunchuk, every action you perform involves shaking the Wiimote. Sometimes, the slightest movement of the controller will cause your character to go diving after an impossibly far away ball, while other times you'll shake the thing with all your might and watch your character stand there while the ball lands on the floor at his or her feet. And to top it off, the matches seem to drag on far longer than they need to. There is no timer, and a match doesn't end until one player reaches fifteen points. This would be the perfect amount of time for a match – once you hit fifteen points you are very ready to move on to the next one – but you don't actually win until you best your opponent in a two-out-of-three tournament. Sigh.
My advice: stick mainly to basketball and hockey. The other two sports are just there to fill up disc space.