Mario Sports Mix Review (Wii)
We recently changed how we do our reviews. Read about the new process here, then check out the new scoring guidelines and revised scoring rubric.
Mario and his compadres have a long history of participating in various sports games: baseball, tennis, soccer, golf, the Olympics, etc. It seems the quality of these games has varied as much as the sports themselves. The newest attempt at capturing sports the way they were meant to be played (at least in the Mushroom Kingdom) is Mario Sports Mix. Unfortunately, Mario Sports Mix will land amongst the worst of the icon’s athletic offerings.
Mario Sports Mix contains four “mixed-up” sports: dodgeball, hockey, basketball and volleyball. All of them are pretty simple in their control and execution -- almost to a fault. There is not a lot of depth or finesse to the control schemes; in fact, you can play using the “old school” method of turning the Wii remote sideways. Using this method, you usually are only using two buttons (with a third activating specials).
What makes these games somewhat interesting are the “gimmicks” found on the courses. Things like incoming ocean waves or a mid-court train serve to spice things up, and they are sort of standard for Mario sports games. Other elements, like collecting coins that add to your point total and character special moves are also interesting, but can feel excessively cheap.
There are some lingering problems, such as AI that ranges from incompetent to, at the harder levels, seemingly unbeatable. Also, when playing alone, you need to manually switch characters. This did not bother me too much at first, and I was actually content to stay locked on to my original character. However, when your AI teammates don't do what you’d expect, it becomes more important to take control.
There are not many surprises here. Anyone that has ever played any of the other Mario sports games will know what to expect (actually, that’s quite true of the gameplay as well). Still, this game comes with that certain Nintendo “sheen” that is unmistakable. The menus are slick, the soundtrack is full of Nintendo trademarks, and there is a strong sense of polish. There are also some nicely highlighted and animated moments in-game.
As a set, the games are not terrible, but they don’t really possess a sense of lasting appeal either. Volleyball is extremely repetitive. Dodgeball is similarly repetitive and plagued by slow pacing. Basketball and hockey are the most fun, but they also feel watered-down and too similar to be the backbone of this kind of package. Basically, without the “Mario-ness,” these games would feel like heavily simplified, and boring, arcade games.
The best way to play these is, of course, in the multiplayer setting. With friends, this game could serve as pretty good party game, not quite surpassing something like Wii Sports. The problem is that there are only four sports. You’d get better value and lasting appeal with Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics if you are looking for this kind of game.
Unlike that Winter Olympics game, Mario Sports Mix does not feature a lengthy or consolidated career mode. Instead, you have various levels of tournaments that are isolated depending on the sport -- think Mario Kart circuits. This is where the AI problems are really exposed, as the difficulty of the game wildly fluctuates. Also, the sports are not enjoyable enough to make one want to invest prolonged time with each one.
Basically, this game really only works in the long term as a multiplayer game. Even then, while it might be fun in short bursts, there are much better options to scratch your “Mario sports” itch. There’s nothing new, or excitingly innovative, here either. Again, if you’ve played other Mario sports games, expect the same experience, just a more shallow one.
Learning Curve: Tutorials help explain the extremely basic controls, which anyone should be able to master after a short bit of time.
Control Scheme: Basic use of the Wii remote and Nunchuk; or for a more “retro” experience, go horizontal for an even simpler two-button interface. Either way, the controls are effective, but very simple. Manual switching can become a pain.
Visuals: Bright, well animated and classic Nintendo characters complement the crazy stadiums and arenas. Still, nothing in the visual department looks tremendously different than the Mario sports games from the past few console generations.
Audio: Some good uses of well-known music, in addition to your classic Mario vocals.
Lasting Appeal: Outside of the four main sports and a few mini-games, there’s not much to bring you back. Again, multiplayer is the best way to play. I can’t see wanting to dedicate any length of time to the single player.
Online: Another good way to play. You can go up to two-versus-two in the contests against friends with codes or without.
Score: 3.5 (Subpar)