Mario and Sonic's first joint venture is great fun

  • Game Review - Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is a dream come true for fans of the long-time mascot rivals, and it works as a solid collection of sports-based mini-games.

    Wii Sports, which has come packed with every Wii console over the past year, is arguably the system's defining title.  Despite its lack of depth and amount of content, it is one of the most highly rated games.  Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games follows the same concept and adds a bit more substance to it.

    At its core, the game is basically just a collection of numerous mini-games, 24 to be exact.  There's everything from running to table tennis to trampoline jumping.

    Each one of these events is tremendously fun.  I give extra props to the archery section, which is a new concept for the Wii and it works quite well.  There are so many different means of control throughout the 24 events.  Running games require a continuous shaking of the Wii Remote and nunchuck, while skeet shooting uses the point-and-click method and hammer throwing requires you to move the controller in a circular motion and have perfect release timing.

    However, of course, the game's crown jewel is the list of characters.  16 players come from the world of Sonic and Mario, eight from each side.  A Mario vs. Sonic melee (or Amy vs. Vector, for that matter) has been on gamers' wish lists for years.

    Unfortunately, there's no real interaction between the characters, which detracts somewhat from the novelty of the two colliding superheroes.  Regardless of that, though, the game does hold up on its own.  It's really fun.

    There are plenty of unlockables, which gives players an extra boost of motivation to go through all the different game modes it has on hand.

    Players can also compete in single even matches or "circuits", which are compilations of events to be played back-to-back and scored comprehensively.  This is where the bulk of unlocking stuff takes place.  You can even bet on the matches as well.

    I also really appreciated the fact that, for several of the activities that "require" the nunchuck attachment, there was an alternate mode of control to just use the Wii Remote.  

    The game is officially licensed by the Olympic Games Committee, and is an official product of the Beijing 2008 games.  As such, all related logos and graphics, including the Beijing Olympics mascots, are in play to give it a more realistic experience.

    In comparison to other Olympics games, there is really no competition.  Most Olympic titles are made on a budgeted scale and are based on the business model that enough people will buy it to make a profit, just from the name recognition.  This is completely different.  I was kind of expecting a sloppy project put together just to have a Mario & Sonic game, but I was happily surprised with how much entertainment it actually provides.

    Sure, it's not the kind of game that you'll be able to log 10 hours into during every session, but it's a perfect pick-up-and-play game, which has obviously come to be the Wii's bread and butter.  You can even use your Mii characters instead of the programmed slate of opponents, so it can even be played as a spiritual expansion to Wii Sports.

    It also fits the "get up off the couch" mold, as the game really fosters an interactive experience.  It is created exclusively as a casual game with no real underlying story or amazing technological backbone.  It's not really for the hardcore gamer or for anyone not overly enthused about Sonic and Mario.  For the casual mascot-obsessed gamer, though, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is a winner.

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