Posted by Urtheart, Nov.01, 2009, under Articles, Comments (0)

The first M&S on Wii was and is one of the most popular games on the Wii, focusing on who played the Wii and why. The transition to the DS was less favoured as the focused remained on the multiplayer while the DS is more focused on playing single player games on long journeys, hence the popularity of titles like Pokemon.

So has 2 years brought any better luck to the iconic pair?

The core formula of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games has changed little, select your favourite character, select an event, play the game, repeat and rinse. The formula worked well and remains true here, with an expanded selection of characters, a good selection of brand new events and the usual array of single player quick play matches and multiplayer support. In addition there is now something specifically tailored towards the single player, Adventure mode as well as some party games for up to 4 players.

Like it’s previous instalment M&S on the DS can only support 4 character events, not really a problem but as with the previous title it would have been nice to see 8 player events as well. The core gameplay itself remains largely unchanged, with each event acting as a mini-game with its own controls. A nice feature that runs through is that all events that use similar equipment such as skiing events, snowboarding events etc, have very similar controls for all events, both normal and dream, through the game giving some kind of consistency. On the downturn for the controls however they have become a little more complex, which while as a game makes it much better for those who wish to take their time to learn the ins and outs of them to perfect their game, for the average audience of the game whom play the game for short periods it might not be as wise.

With Winter Olympics comes a different set of events, which gives the game a brand new lease of life. The range of games is fairly good covering the majority of the Olympic events from skiing, Biathlons and snowboarding to Ice hockey, skeleton and Curling. This time each Olympic event has a dream counterpart (except skeleton which instead gets Dream Snowball Machines). This creates the advantage that almost all events are expanded on and given a twist in the Dream side, but also means that there are really only 2 unique Dream events being the Biathlon (which is just shoot the target and takes back to the old Point Blank games) and Dream Snowball Machines (basically Mech fights with Snowballs for guns). However with so many events covered the selection of events is great, personal favourites include Dream Ski Rocket Jumping, Ice hockey and both versions of Figure Skating if nothing else just to see Shadow’s Dance of the Emo and Silver bringing out his true colours.

The controls for the games are always given in brief and are either buttons or stylus. While the controls have certainly gotten more complex since the previous game, they are still fairly simple. Events may not be quite pick up and play this time round, the slightly bigger single player focus will making getting faster times and longer distance much more based on skill rather than luck, which in this case is a good thing.

The Adventure mode is the thing which really amplifies this game above and beyond the previous instalment. The adventure mode sees you in control of both Mario and Sonic whom you can switch who you play in the Overworld at will, each with specific abilities (Mario can go through pipes and shrink, Sonic can use springs and his spindash to create holes in walls and take down bridges). Along the story you’ll pick up all the other playable characters, most of whom will have a specific ability and a mini-game to play to open up new areas. To progress through the game you find shy guys, Chao or other characters whom challenge you to complete specific events occasionally with extra challenges or twists. Because of the way these challenges are set out they are great for learning how to play each event and then progressing your skills. Each challenge has both a pass rank (by clearing it) and a gold rank (for perfecting it or beating it by a huge margin). The base of the story is Bowser and Eggman have teamed up to ruin the Olympics, a rubbish storyline but it gets the job done, and the many cameo appearances will keep fans of both sides happy. The only complaint of these cameos is the fact that these characters appear in events as playable characters, however it is not possible for you to play as them, only against them. Certainly from the side of a Sonic fan, not being able to play as Rouge, Jet or Omega (or even unlock Eggman Nega as an alternative costume) despite the characters already having models (and essentially being playable) just seems either cruel or lazy.

One other problem from characters comes only on the Nintendo side. While the stats for the Sonic characters fit nicely with their personalities and skills, the Mario team has had a slight mishap, some of which fans have notably been outraged by, with the biggest complaint being that Luigi’s jump stat isn’t as good as Mario (when any Mario fan knows it’s the other way round). This isn’t going to kill anyone but certainly it seems that SEGA have taken less care this time over the integrity of the Team Mario characters. They kind of redeem this in the mini games which are specific for each character, Luigi has to run from Ghosts as per usual, Yoshi has to use his tongue and Wario gets to use the infamous Wario Waft (farting) to blast things away.

Multiplayer hasn’t changed much; you can still play all events both multi-cart and single cart and connections are clear and synchronise well. However this is the only area where something noticeable has been taken out. In the previous incarnation, for events like trampoline where each person in theory would have to take their turn after each other, to save on time (and battery) all players played simultaneously and just had to wait for players to finish after extended time or such. This time each player must watch the others take their turns (through live streaming which again syncs well) but it means that in a 4 player game, you’ll spend three quarters of your time watching, which isn’t fun. This happens in about half the events so if you have got friends, be prepared to wait for them to take their turns.

Overall Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games has taken a huge step forward with a solid singe player, sadly followed by a minor but slightly breaking step backwards with the waiting times in multiplayer. If you enjoyed the first game, this one is much better, and if you didn’t enjoy the old one or just didn’t have enough friends to enjoy it with, this might be the one for you. Certainly it hits as one of the best DS games this year (not a particularly difficult task but at least this one deserves that title). Gripes are there but none of them particularly spoil the game and with a solid line up of events should keep you entertained for a while, this time both with and without friends.

Gameplay-> 94
Graphics-> 75
Story-> 46
Music-> 97 (love the one for Rocket Ski Jump, misses perfect for bad MIDI dream figure skating ones)
Lifespan -> 60-80 (higher mark depending on the amount of friends with game locally)
Overall – > 90

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