Two years ago SEGA published a game which brought together the two great plat-forming franchises from the early nineties for an epic clash that turned into probably the best selling game SEGA has ever made, at least for a very long time anyway, and now once again the worlds of Mario and Sonic have collided in the form of the Olympic games, except this time its a bit colder and Canadian.
I am of course talking about Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter games, which was released two weeks ago for the DS and Wii, so it’s about time I reviewed it don’t you think?
There is a lot to cover here, heck I’m probably still missing a few bits here and there, but I’m going to try and cover most of it.
Starting out, you can either play a single event just for a bit of fun or to try and beat a record, or you can play festival mode where you get to play through various events over the 16 days the actual games are held.
There’s pretty much everything in there that you could think of when it comes to events to play, from Snowboarding to Skiing events, to Bobsleigh to Hockey, and many more too numerous to mention in full all of which have very solid control systems and are fun to pick up and play.
I would highly recommend starting with Festival mode because for each event you play you will go through a training version first which runs you through the event with clear instructions on what you have to do, and then gives you a little challenge to make sure you’ve learnt the controls. You get to select a character from the Mario or Sonic universe’s at the start and then play through the events with that same character with the computer randomly selecting extra characters for team events like hockey, the objective of festival mode is to try and get more medals/points than the rest of the computer controlled characters over the 16 days of events. The first time I went through it I decided to go for Tails (as if you wouldn’t have guessed) and found that most of the events were very easy to pick up and win especially the skiing events. There were a few however that drove me up the wall like hockey and short track as I just couldn’t seem to get it right… although once I figured out how to tackle people in hockey it got a lot easier.
Every so often in festival mode you will be challenged by a rival who might appear after you have cleared a days events, these characters are not the regular set of playable characters featuring the likes of Omega, Rouge, and Dry Bowser (there’s more but you’ll have to play the game to find out who). Depending on how good at the event you are the difficulty can vary from a cake walk to wanting to throw the wii mote through the screen in a fit of rage… I really suck at ice hockey. They are a nice touch to Festival mode and if you manage to beat your rival on the first go you get more points. One gripe I do have is that the characters you fight do not become playable characters after you have beaten them… I guess this was done in order to keep the teams balanced as best as possible… although I have heard Mario fans have complained about the balancing in there favourite characters. For my part I can’t see any real problems with the balancing of the Sonic characters.
Dream events make a reappearance from the original and can only be unlocked in festival mode, put simply they are excuses to throw in a ton of fan service, and surprisingly its all done very well, certainly for the events that end up being themed around specific levels, like Dream Alpine being Seaside hill from Sonic Heroes, Dream Short Track being the egg factory, and Dream Snowboard Cross being Radical Highway from Sonic Adventure 2, to name the Sonic ones, there are Mario ones but my knowledge of that franchise is intentionally fuzzy, and I’m sure the Mario fans will be as pleased at there levels as I am with the Sonic ones. It was really good to see the return of some of these levels… note to self re-play Sonic Adventure 2 after I finish this review. One particular dream event that I want to highlight is Dream figure skating, where you get to re-enact the stories of the respective franchises universes, I won’t give anything away for the Sonic one but it is a brilliant nostalgia trip. I haven’t played the Mario one but I imagine it involves rescuing the Princes. There are other dream events which I didn’t feel were that good for example Dream Snowball Fight, although that may be because I’m not very good at them, either way overall the dream events have a lot of events which truely shine and a few which just seem to be just OK.
In the end I managed to play through festival mode in a couple of hours which may not seem like a much time for a full priced game, but bare in mind it is essentially a mini games collection and high re-playability rate is to be expected, and after playing through it once I’m eager to play it again, maybe this time as Blaze?
For each event you participate in you earn currency and depending on how well you play you will also earn emblems which also earn you currency. This ‘money’ can then be redeemed in game for clothing and board customisations which can be used on your Mii’s, you can also get costumes so you can dress up as your favourite fan character… another bit of fan service. There is also the chance to buy in game music tracks from both the Mario and Sonic universe’s, and a Library where you can read information on the real Olympic Winter Games. This system to me just feels like its been tagged on a bit just to add a bit of extra life to the game without adding that much, there again this may be because I don’t like my Mii and am quiet happy playing as Tails.
Now I will admit I haven’t played any multi-player for the Winger games yet, but from what I’ve seen and played this game is designed to be multi-player orientated, and I can see many hours being wasted at a party or at home with family playing this. One gripe I do have is that it seems you can’t switch a wii remote between players this time round, you have to have a wii remote for each player which when you have four players is a very expensive proposition. I can understand this for the events where four players are required to be doing actions at the same time, but for events like the Ski jump or the Skeleton it seems a little excessive.
Okay I’ve ranted on for long enough here, I’m going to sum up my likes and dislikes about the game below for those of you who can’t be bothered to read all of this.
– Controls, simple to pick up and master after a few attempts.
– Character models are very detailed, surprisingly so for the Wii, I think SEGA are pushing the upper end of the Wii’s potential here.
– A lot of the events are very enjoyable to play, the skiing events in particular were exceedingly fun.
– Tutorials are very thorough, and in festival mode you get to do training events which pretty much hold you by the hand for your first attempt and yet not be patronising.
– Loading screens, there a pet hate of mine, and when you have to deal with them going too and from events which only last a few minutes they start to get irritating… while not on the Sonic 06 level of annoying they still irritate me.
– The Mario characters, but I do accept that they make up half the game and without them the game wouldn’t be that interesting to most people, I just can’t get past my loathing of fat Italian plumbers.
– Number of buttons you have to press just to get to an event, gets annoying after a while, sometimes I just want to go straight to the game and not have to skip through two intro sequences showing off the course and characters.
– There were a few events that I just couldn’t get the hang of, although that may be just me.
A very enjoyable game, great for when you have friends round, with quick play and longer events available. A must have for fans of either franchise just for the fan service in the dream events, and a great pick up and play game for the none fans, it hits all the spots the original did and then some, with plenty of extras for those of us with obsessive compulsive disorders or way too much time on there hands, and for those of you who like point scores then I’ll give it an 86.
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