Just as Antipodeans are enjoying holidays at the beach, sun-tans and air conditioned venues, our northern hemisphere global neighbours are hunkering down in front of roaring fires or bar heaters. Those that are not shivering inside are possibly joining a few other crazies in playing sport outside.
In Vancouver during February 2010, a significant gathering of the worlds wintery elite will take place – and SEGA will be releasing a game all about it, but for now we have Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Winter Games.
How do Mario and his mates do it? Does he ever get any plumbing done? Or does he rely purely on coins gathered in games such as New Super Mario Bros. Wii to fund trips to the Winter Olympics? Who knows? Either way, Mario, Luigi, Sonic the Hedgehog and several of their more prominent hanger-ons have made the trek north on both Wii and DS.
This is the second recent outing for Mario and Sonic at an Olympic event having visited Beijing for the big event in 2008, this game retains the basic mini-game collection established in that title, and let’s face it, every Olympic Games video game ever made.
The DS version of the game is a simple game indeed, there are fifteen events in total (plus 12 fantasy ‘Dream’ events) of which, some are very similar to each other, speed and short track skating for example fail to impress with controls that feel sloppy and generally uninspiring, short game play. On the other hand I actually enjoyed my time with Curling (you know, lawn bowls with brooms) and the Cross Country skiing events that, though nothing like cross country skiing what so-ever, make for an enjoyable short mini-video game including power ups and blocking of other skiers.
Dream events take regular Winter Sports to another level, Rocket Ski Jump for example will see your chosen Olympian sail through the air for kilometres, picking up floating power ups along the way.
The unlockable Party Games are best not mentioned too much, these are basically games of chance that lead to playing one off events in order to progress. Playing Bingo, Lucky Spin or a slot machine just feels very tacked on and unnecessary.
There are twenty characters drawn from the vast history of Mario and Sonic lore, broken into four broad groups, All-round, Speed, Power and Skill – primarily you will be interested in playing with the Speed and All-Round folks, though Power can help during the chaos that is Ice Hockey.
Generally – notwithstanding the earlier comments about skating events – the DS controls for playing through winter events are ok. It will take you practice (as it should) to master events using the stylus. Ski Jumping in particular, which involves using the stylus to start, jump, balance in the air and land, is dependent on a steady hand and timing to garner a high score.
Luckily each event contains tutorial videos of the basic and advanced controls as well as an option to practice.
The new Adventure Tour Mode is a welcome addition that adds some puzzle aspects and story line linking the unlocking of characters and event based mission objectives in order to complete the strange tale of a plot by Dr Eggman and Bowser’s attempt to stop the Winter Olympics by kidnapping snow spirits. Oddly, in order to thwart this unmotivated crime, Sonic and Mario must melt certain road-blocking ice-flows and free each trapped spirit to provide snow for the games.
Multiplayer consists of events up to four DS units hooked up (with only one copy of the game required) for many events, or trading ghost characters for others to compete against.
M&S OWG is not the most sophisticated title on the DS market, but I realise I may not be the target demographic, so I outsourced part of this review to the local street urchins in my suburb. Ten year old Alex loved the Adventure Tour “It’s like never-seen before !!!” he said.
Eight year old Adam got his chance with the Wii version of the game including the Festival mode – a career mode – as well as the chance to try out the Balance Board in some events.
Adam said: “My favourite game is dream snow board cross. Everyone who has played likes the game. It’s my favourite game because you get to do grinds and high jumps, My least favourite game is curling because it’s hard for me and I find it boring.” Adam did go on to give the game 9 out of 10, I wasn’t quite so generous.