Mario’s athletic prowess has never been questioned. He has had a role on just about every type of sports team imaginable, either in the form of a mini-game challenge or an entire game dedicated to a particular sport. Now, with Mario Sports Mix, players take control of the stout plumber and his posse as they progress through matches of volleyball, dodge ball, hockey, and basketball. If you are anything like me; a prissy, anti-sports fan, then there is a lot here for you to love simply because these sports are about as unrealistic as they could get, and you don’t have to worry about getting your shoes dirty.
Gameplay for all four of the main sports in Mario Sports Mix is relatively similar: waggle to jump, and waggle to fire your projectile at its respective target. Mostly the Nunchuck is used for guiding your character, blocking/dodging, or switching your control to a different NPC teammate. On most of the courts you will be able to grab coins and power-ups. Each coin you grab will add an extra point onto your score when you make a goal, and the power-ups will be familiar to anyone who has played any version of Mario Kart. There are Bob-Ombs to blow your opponents to smithereens and knock loose some of their coins, red shells to hone in on your enemy and temporarily stun them, and other fun goodies that will lay waste to the other team in a similarly zany fashion. There is also a special attack meter that fills up as you play, and once it’s full you can unleash an attack that is different depending on what character you are controlling at the time. Unfortunately, when playing the game in the offline mode, player versus CPU mode, there is little to no need for power-ups, coins, or special attacks. The AI governing the actions of your opposition is so crippled, it’s a bit like playing against a quadriplegic orangutan who has suffered from repeated blunt force trauma to the head. Once the first two levels of difficulty you will start to get a little challenge from the AI, but it’s still not anything that even a novice player couldn’t surpass.
Playing online is, quite literally, a whole new ball game. You can opt to have a friend play on your team with you in either a 2 vs. 2 or a 3 vs. 3 match in any of the four sports offered. The living, breathing people you can combat via the Nintendo WiFi Connection will pull out all the stops when it comes to decimating your team. It is unfortunate that the offline game in no way prepares you for the brutality that awaits you on the internet, because getting consistently maimed in dodge ball by strangers, or a friend if you register their Friend Code, is pretty disheartening. One thing that was impressive is that there always seemed to be someone online waiting to play, which was surprising considering the considerably low amount of hype Mario Sports Mix received prior to its launch. Players that are looking for a slightly different challenge can try their hand at the included mini-games. Mostly these mini-games are just slight variations on the main games, but will offer a quick and possibly welcomed diversion from the main game.
Square Enix really kept up with Nintendo’s standards of presentation for any game with “Mario” in the title. The music was majestic and brought to mind feelings of watching a televised sports tournament. Locales in the game were all familiar and brought even more consistency to the universe of Mario. Each area you play in will offer a new and slight twist. For example, there is a Luigi’s Mansion court in which the lights turn out and a ghost will aid one of the two teams, or there is a court on Koopa Troopa Beach where shells and coins wash ashore when the tide comes in. During actual gameplay, graphics were crisp, sharp, and vividly colored. The special attack animations look great and integrate seamlessly with the action as it unfolds on your screen. These visual elements are in stark contrast to the muddy looking, aliased, low-framerate design of the game’s flimsy tutorial mode. The tutorials look as if they were either pulled from a GameCube launch title, or rendered by the aforementioned orangutan using a stick in his mouth to operate the computer. Thankfully, due to the simple waggle centric controls, most players will not rely on the tutorials too heavily — Mario Sports Mix is a game about reflexes and good timing, not complicated button combinations.
If romping around in a filthy, grassy field or risking severe injury on a pair of ice skates doesn’t appeal to you, then you may find the perfect way to get your sports fix with Mario Sports Mix. You can have a blast and get some easy gratification by playing offline against the CPU, take on a genuine challenger via the Nintendo WiFi connection, or try your hand at a few simple mini-games. The bright and dazzling visual presentation paired with familiar playing fields and gameplay principles means this game fits right in next to any other Mario spin-off titles you may have in your game library. I only hope that if more Mario sports games are developed by Square Enix in the future, the offline mode has a little more substance to it. Perhaps they should seriously reconsider hiring a replacement for that poor, decrepit primate on their development team.
Mario Sports Mix
|Playing against real people at home or via WiFi can offer a genuine challenge, the game looks great and it's easy to learn the basics||One could almost literally play against the CPU with their eyes closed, there seems to have been a severe lack of attention to the development of the game's tutorial system|
|Verdict||Mario Sports Mix would be a great purchase for extreme Mario enthusiasts, but maybe a better rental for other Wii owners.|