Two years ago the once heated rivalry between Mario and Sonic was officially put to rest when the two teamed up to take on the Beijing Summer Olympics’ events. The rivalry started to feel somewhat reignited when the two spent time wailing away on one another in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but it has once again cooled in order to tackle the Olympics. Only this time around the Olympics are in Vancouver, Canada and involve much colder temperatures, tons of snow and ice, and completely different events.
While Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games hasn’t necessarily improved upon their original outing as much as many would have hoped, it is a marginally better title than the first. However, from the moment the game’s title appears on-screen and the recognizable SEGA announcer voice belts out “Mario and Sonic at the Lympic Winter Games” you begin to wonder what else may be missing in addition to the O typically found in the word Olympic.
Once again players will have their choice of a number of characters from both the Mario and Sonic stables. On the Mario side, you basically know who to expect with the likes of Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Princess Peach, and Wario as well as the other staples being represented. The Sonic side feels a little more obscure once you get past Sonic and Tails including characters such as Blaze and Silver, although Metal Sonic is a nice throwback for the older Sonic fans. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses when looking at their individual ratings in categories such as power, speed, and skill, but the choice of who to use still just comes down to a matter of selecting your favorite character. Of course, if you grow tired of the stable of licensed characters or are just looking for something a little different, you can also take on all of the game’s events using any of the Miis you have saved. Unfortunately, you aren’t able to set any of the Miis’ ratings. Instead, each is just given a balanced set of skills, which does seem to work well enough but makes all the Miis essentially the same.
Luckily, there is a bit more variety to be found in this game’s events as opposed to their first outing, which mostly relied on pumping the Wii-mote and Nunchuk up and down as frantically as possible to gain speed. The standard events you’d expect from a Winter Olympics title are present including skiing, snowboarding, skeleton, speed skating, bobsleigh, ski jumping, figure skating, and even curling. The weakest of these events tend to be the ones that rely on holding the Wii-mote and Nunchuk vertically and tilting them left and right in order to steer. The skeleton, bobsleigh, and many of the skiing events fall into this category and suffer from the same problem. Tilting the controllers in order to steer is incredibly inaccurate and slow, resulting in unpredictable turns that will likely cost you several medals throughout the course of play.
While those events suffer from their use of motion controls, there are several that are actually quite good. Some easy examples are curling, figure skating, and speed skating. Curling has you aiming your shot, performing a bowling like motion to throw, and then pushing the Wii-mote forwards and backwards in order to help your rock maintain its speed en route to its intended target. Figure skating involves picking a song and then performing specific movements such as lifting the Wii-mote to jump, swirling it to spin, and holding it flat to maintain balance while your character moves through their routine. However, my favorite of the bunch had to be the speed skating, which needs some waggling to increase speed off of the starting line but then requires well-timed thrusts to the left and right in time with your onscreen character’s arm movements in order to maintain a high speed.
Besides these standard events you’d expect from a game simulating the Winter Olympics, there are also a series of dream events in the game that infuse some much needed Mario and Sonic flavor into the title. Most of these generally consist of taking a standard event and applying different backgrounds and mechanics to them in order to make them slightly more interesting. One example of this is a ski long jump that has you soaring through outer space while collecting points and weapons pickups to help edge out the competition before your final touchdown on a distant asteroid. Then there are also some which don’t have anything to do with the Olympic Games such as a four vs. four snowball match that are just thrown in for good measure and some added variety.
The downside to these dream events are that they aren’t immediately accessible to the player. In order to unlock these events, you’ll need to play through the game’s somewhat lengthy festival mode first. This mode attempts to simulate the actual Olympic Games by throwing training and events at you on a day to day basis in a quest to rack up the most points overall. The dream events and some rival challenges are tossed in to help to spice up what would otherwise feel like a grind but don’t help as much as you’d hope.
The coins you earn from successfully completing any of the game’s events can be used to buy various things, also seemingly meant to add superficial variety to the title. The items for sale include information about the Olympics, Mii clothing and accessories, patterns and banners (that can be applied to skis/snowboards), and classic Mario and Sonic tunes. While having this option is great, many of these items aren’t very good or don’t really add anything. Some of the Mii clothing and accessories are either completely plain or rather hideous and while the patterns and banners are a great idea, most look terrible and out of place once applied to your skis or snowboard.
Still, even with its problems Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is a slightly better title than its predecessor. There is definitely more variety in the events and the motions required, the dream events are better and more elaborate, and well, I just think that the Winter Games are inherently more fun than the Summer ones to begin with. However, it would have been nice if the game had gotten some more polish before its release, especially in terms of its visuals which can be fairly rough due to the horribly pixelated crowds and occasional framerate hiccups. Even so, if you liked the first Mario and Sonic Olympics title or are just looking for a Mario and Sonic-themed mini-game compilation, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games should be fun in small bursts, especially with four players.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
The crowds look like piles of blurry and messy sprites, and you’ll notice some occasional framerate hiccups. Otherwise, it looks like you’d expect. 3.5 Control
Besides the steering that requires you to tilt the Wii-mote and Nunchuk, everything works pretty well. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Classic Mario and Sonic tunes mix well with the over-the-top SEGA announcer voice. 3.3
The festival mode and dream events provide some good variety and playtime, but it would have been nice to be able to compete against other players online.
3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.