Reviews

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games

Playing it safe

2007's Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games has sold more than ten million copies. Ten million. When the sequel inevitably came sliding down the slopes then, there was always the risk we'd end up with a 'playing it safe' rehash, in an attempt by Sega to replicate the phenomenal sales figures of the first game. And who could blame them?

As predicted then, Sega's not taken many risks with Olympic Winter Games; MotionPlus support is out - because that'd limit the amount of people who could experience the full game - online modes have fallen by the wayside and there's far more party games and Mii character costumes than actual meaty single-player modes.

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Mario & Sonic is clearly aimed at the masses and in that respect Sega's done a good job. Each of the game's Winter-themed events support any number of control schemes. Players can jump in with just a Wii Remote in hand, plug in a Nunchuk for added control and now - in a new addition to the sequel - get the Wii Balance Board involved as well.

For example, Hockey can be played with a Nunchuk manoeuvring your character across the ice and another player joining in with just a Wii Remote held horizontally, skating with the d-pad and firing a shot off with a rattle of the controller.

Ski and snowboarding events are another example of the game's accessibility, which can have you using the Remote and Nunchuk as ski poles, or simply steering Mario and co down the slopes by tilting the Remote. With the amount of control options and on-screen visual instructions, Sega couldn't have made it much easier for players of all ages to jump in.

But of course it's the games on offer that count, and in this area Olympic Winter Games is a bit of a mixed bag. Of the 20+ events half are classic Track and Field-style 'button-mashers' (except 21st century button-mashing comes in the form of Remote gestures) while the remaining collection contains 'Dream Events'. These are particular highlights, as Sega's been set free to explore the universes of the Mario & Sonic series in nostalgia-filled arcade games.

One, Dream Ski Jumping, has characters soaring through the starry skies of Super Mario Galaxy while another, Dream Alpine, has you racing along the newly snow-filled slopes of the Green Hill Zone. There's also a take on Mario Kart with snowboards and skis - complete with all the correct sound effects and power-ups.

In comparison, the most simple of the traditional Olympic events sadly aren't worth as much time and can feel like an incredibly on-rails experience to the seasoned gamer. The original Mario & Sonic had this problem, and interaction in events such as Speed and Figure skating go about as deep as the occasional wave or tilt of the Wii Remote when on-screen instructions demand it. Your Nan'll be able to play, but it's not exactly riveting stuff for everyone else.

More complex events, such as the aforementioned Hockey and Curling provide a meatier experience, but you'll have to put up with the less strong games to get at them.

Curling is actually one surprise favourite (hear us out). The game has you lining up your shot with the Remote, before 'swinging' your stone with a Wii Sports Golf-style power meter. From here you can tilt the remote to add spin to your throw and then sweep like a mentalist with the remote to get those brooms moving. It works well - even if the CPU is frighteningly good.

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