Mario Sports Mix Wii
I don’t think anyone has ever told Nintendo that you can have too much of a good thing. Despite a console generation that has seen more Mario games than I can even remember, and more sports titles too, here we are with Mario Sports Mix. This time around Nintendo have sweetened the deal with not one, not two, not even three, but four sports on the same disc.
The sports in question are new for a console Mario game, not recycled Gamecube titles like the last two Mario Sports games on the Wii. As you might expect we get a rendition of a regular sport, simplified to the point of being a bit dumbed-down. That’s fine though, nobody expects a serious sports simulation from anything with ‘Mario‘ in the title. At first everything seems pretty normal, apart from smaller team sizes, but as you progress through one of the game’s tournaments you’ll find plenty of variety provided by the courts you play on. All the standard Mario power ups make an appearance, and numerous courts based around the game’s major characters help and hinder you. It is as ‘by the numbers’ as Mario Sports titles get.
The sports themselves actually play pretty well though, with well incorporated motion controls. If you want to make a jump, thrust your Wiimote upwards. To take a shot whilst airborne, thrust it straight down. It’s perfect for Basketball and Volleyball, whilst in Hockey and Dodge ball you’ll be swiping your Wiimote sideways to take shots. It’s all nice clean fun, and is great if you’ve got someone to play with and/or against. Sadly though, in single player the game’s AI doesn’t present much of a challenge. Beating the first three tournaments of any sport opens up another set of harder tournaments, but these aren’t really much harder, and will still present little challenge.
None of the sports offer any sort of career mode either, just single games and tournaments, probably a good thing considering the game’s incompetent AI. It really does seem more of a party game than a sports game, this is compounded with four additional ‘party’ games loosely based on the sports at hand. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is severely limiting to people with few or no game-playing friends. This is undoubtedly why the game offers an online mode. It’s not much of a consolation, but it’s better than nothing.
The online mode isn’t bad to be honest, aside from the usual problem with the dreaded Nintendo friend codes. Select a team of characters to play, pick a sport and off you go. The game automatically finds you an opponent, and tells you the quality of their connection and whether you’re playing against one or two people, before giving you the option to refuse the challenge. I thought that was a nice touch, as quite frankly it is a bit unfair playing two against one when all you have is the crappy AI to back you up.
It’s a bit of a shame that the game is so multiplayer based really, I used to enjoy the single player of the older Mario Sports titles. But there’s just not much of an incentive to play the single player game, apart from unlocking some extra characters. Personally, having never played a Dragon Quest game, and having little experience with Final Fantasy, the significance of these characters was lost on me anyway. It doesn’t help that these characters have to be unlocked individually for each sport either. This just turns the single player game into a tedious grind-fest, as you have to play through all tournaments in each sport multiple times to unlock a mere four characters. I wouldn’t have bothered if it wasn’t for so many people using the unlockables online, and even then I don’t feel that they give you much of an advantage over the standard characters.
Although multiplayer is the game’s strength, I still couldn’t help feeling it’s a case of quantity over quality. All of the sports are fun in the short term, but none have the appeal to stand up to an extended session. There are better sports games out there, Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, to name but two. I really expected better from Nintendo than this, as they have shown they can do it. Maybe they should give the reins back to Camelot before they think about releasing another Mario Sports title, because Square Enix have proven they have trouble cutting the mustard.