Russia’s winter Olympic dream will come to fruition early next year, and both Nintendo and SEGA have attempted to capitalize on that fact, through their continued licensing agreement with the world’s showcase sporting tradition. The result is the first Wii U iteration of the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games franchise, which is lengthily dubbed Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. It’s a mouthful, for sure, but is very easy to describe. The game is simply an ‘arcadey,’ Mushroom Kingdom–inspired take on the highly competitive, snow-filled events that will capture our collective interest come February.
In true Mario sports fashion, Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games is accurately marketed as a colourful, accessible and family friendly sporting affair. It’s not complex, nor does it really show out-of-the-box thinking in any way, but it’s mildly entertaining stuff. That is, if you’re willing to dumb down your expectations a bit, in order to accept that what you’re going to be playing is a generally simplified and/or exaggerated take on different sports.
Included in the mix are quite a few traditional winter Olympic events, including downhill slalom skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, bobsledding, hockey and curling. Those are flanked by some of the more recent/more flashy sports, like snowboard cross and ski cross, as well as Dream Events that present colourful variations like a rollercoaster bobsled track, hole-in-one curling and a podracer-inspired Bullet Bill chariot race. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a Nintendo-crafted arcade sports title, so you should already have a good idea as to whether it’ll be up your alley or not. Unfortunately, though, it’s not one of the top-tier genre affairs, and simply exists as a half-decent and mediocre-at-best experience for armchair Wii U athletes.
The aforementioned roster of short-burst mini-sports varies in quality from surprisingly good to bland. Examples of the former category include the curling, figure skating and biathlon events, while the list of inferior options features as many, if not more, sports. Even when I use the term good, I use it with a grain of salt, because there’s nothing spectacular here. Although I admittedly enjoyed playing some of these interactive renditions, I have no interest in returning to the game to play them more, and therein lays the game’s main problem. It’s simply fine, and OK, but doesn’t present a reason to return. That is, unless you’re the type of person who likes to play online against a seemingly tiny community, or try to improve upon his (or his friends’ and family members’) results. Even then, you’ll probably get bored after a week or less.
What’s good is that there’s at least a bit of variety in the available mode types. Those who wish to ‘beat’ the game can simply choose the Legendary Events option, which gives players a random foursome of characters from both the Nintendo and SEGA stables, then forces them to win varied matches against those characters’ ghosts. Failure to do so prevents progression, while winning brings folks one step closer to possession of the game’s much sought after trophy. However, this is merely the mode for the more story-driven players. Others who prefer more ‘creative’ modes can pick from a scenario wherein questions are asked during gameplay, or themed medleys, in addition to the expected one-off mode.
Control-wise, Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics is also a mixed bag. Competition revolves around motion controls, as you’d expect, and they unsurprisingly lack the precision that time-based Olympic events require. As such, you’ll be fighting not only the computer (or other players) while playing, but also the controls from time to time. They’re not terrible by any means, but they don’t always register properly, which is definitely frustrating. That’s especially true when it comes to the GamePad controls, which occasionally bring the controller’s gyro sensor into play. The Wii Remote Plus schemes are generally better, but each event has its own required controller.
Unfortunately, the mediocrity-based talk that has been rampant throughout this review has to continue, because Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games also leaves something to be desired as far as its presentation goes. Its visuals do the job, and they’re certainly colourful, but they lack the fidelity of other high-definition Nintendo games. While playing, I couldn’t help but think that what I was watching was more reminiscent of an upscaled Wii game than something that was developed for its more powerful follow-up.
Sound-wise, things are quite basic. You’ll hear the characters yell out their names and spout a line here and there, but that’s about it. Additionally, while there is music, it’s generally grating.
To conclude, I unfortunately must state that this is a game that most can avoid without worrying about missing anything. Die-hard Mario sports fans are the exception, but even those folks should go into Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games with relatively low expectations. It’s too bad, because the Olympics – especially the Winter variations – are always a blast, and there’s a lot of great video game material to be found within them. Unfortunately, Nintendo’s latest attempt to capture said glamour is too basic, uninspired and tough to control to really recommend or wholeheartedly enjoy.
This review is based on the Wii U exclusive, which was provided to us.
With Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Nintendo had a great opportunity to produce something fantastic. However, the video game giant failed to take advantage of its source material, resulting in a mediocre and somewhat uninspired final product. There’s a bit of fun to be had here, but it won’t last for long.