|Dev: Square Enix|
|Release: February 7, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p|
The AI players in the game are about as smart as lamp posts. Playing through a single-player campaign for the first time is pretty much mindless. In fact, I actually forgot to pause the game when I left the room once, and I came back to find that a minute and a half had counted off in my absence yet my opponent had failed to score a single point.
However, single-player gets much more interesting your second time through. Even though the AI remains hopelessly clueless, you are allowed to explore alternate paths on the tournament map. Each alternate path is filled with random challenges that allow you to unlock cool extras like bonus characters, costumes, and even extra courts. There are even a few characters from the Final Fantasy games for you to unlock. My personal favorite is the black mage, who can toss fireballs and send down lightning to strike opponents. This guy definitely won't play fair.
SPOILER ALERT: Even better, once you beat all three cups (Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, and Star Cup) for every sport, an unexpected twist is thrown at you: you suddenly get tossed into a boss fight against Behemoth from Final Fantasy. And it's pretty epic. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to hurl turtle shells at a Final Fantasy boss, you finally get your chance.
The real meat of this game is multiplayer. Each sport is exponentially better when played against a real opponent who can strategize against you. Mario Sports Mix allows you to play online, giving it the chance to completely redeem itself (we can forgive sketchy single-player tournaments if we're given a phenomenal online experience). Sadly, Mario Sports Mix makes it incredibly difficult to find matches against random opponents. I logged in on release day – the day I would have most expected to find large amounts of players anxiously awaiting some real competition – yet I was still stuck waiting ten to fifteen minutes to find a match. And if you play online all alone, there is no option to choose 2v2 matches. You are forced to play 3v3 unless you happen to get matched with someone who actually has two human players sharing the same Wii. As a player who prefers 2v2, this felt like a lose-lose situation for me. I would either get stuck in a 3v3 match, or be teamed up with a hopelessly stupid AI character against two humans who could concoct complex strategies against me.
I got a small group of friends to try out local multiplayer, and that is where the game took on a real life of its own. Having opponents and teammates in the same room made for an exceptional gaming experience. The hours flew by as we developed more and more aggressive strategies to further humiliate whichever friends we were facing off against.
Mario Sports Mix tries to do too much at once. It's a mixed bag of bite-sized pieces, and many of those pieces feel like they could have used a bit more polish. But I must admit, some of the pieces work exceptionally well. The bottom line: this has potential to be great party game if you can ignore the weaker sports on the disc and the shallow single-player experience.
CCC Freelance Writer