Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would know that Mario has a rich history of exploring genres outside of the running and jumping scene. On top of that, Mario is also no stranger to his athletic prowess. He has played tennis, golf, various Olympic games, and, yes, basketball on two other occasions. This would be Mario’s third go in the sport of basketball, and it is accompanied by three other sports. What I’m talking about, of course, is Mario Sports Mix, and this package throws your beloved Mario characters into basketball, volleyball, dodgeball and hockey. Four different sports in one title? Sounds like the ideal game for a good time gathered around the Wii, right?
Mario Sports Mix is a party game that brings players right into the action, right away. There’s no storyline, in-depth leveling up system or anything like that. You jump right in and begin playing against your friends or the computer. The controls of the game can be done with either a Wii remote turned sideways or Wii remote with nunchuck. Waggling handles most of the more important actions, and the other buttons handle the rest. Each sport has the option of playing either 2v2 or 3v3. You can either play against your friends, team up with your friends to face the computer or mix and match friends and computers to your heart’s desire. Playing against the computer is fairly easy, but when the difficulty is turned up a few notches, the game becomes impossible. The difficulty in this game is no joke. Be prepared to be left scoreless, even after feeling like a macho man dominating normal leveled computers.
The game also features tournament modes for each sport. There are different difficulty levels, and different variations of the field/court/rink throughout the tournaments. The difficulty I already explained, but the varying stages put an interesting twist on these four conventional sports. Some stages are clever and make interesting use of its uniqueness. However, others are a lot less stellar. For example, one of the hockey rinks adds a barrier in front of the goalie nets with orange cones. The goalie (which is normally a computer controlled Shy Guy) is taken out of the game completely, and what you have are destructible and pushable orange cones. You can maneuver around the cones and make an easy goal, or have one of your teammates push them aside to make — what is essentially — an open net. This particular stage is not very fun to play the game of hockey on, and it just comes across as a lazy way to bring up the count on the number of stages in this game.
Another added twist to these four sports are the power-ups scattered across the plane. They appear randomly, and walking over these question blocks begins the process of getting your random item. These items include Koopa shells, banana peels, Starman, etc. Each of these offer their own advantages, and could potentially be a game changer. Collecting coins during a game is also something to look out for. Each coin collected will add 1 more point, or in dodgeball’s case, more damage, the next time you earn a point or hit an opponent. Players can also build their special meter to pull off character specific power moves. These are very flashy and cinematic, but become tiresome after the first or second time. They grow especially tiresome when each special looks and plays out the same way throughout each sport.
By now, you must be wondering the following: ‘This game is almost sounds like it’s four games in one. Why is he not elaborating on each of them?’ And that’s where my biggest problem with the game lies. With the exception of the few obvious modifications, each sport plays very similar to the rest. Everything I said so far applies to all four different sports, and that’s why it feels like I’m cheating you out of a full review. Think about it — why do Mario tennis and golf games not get mushed into one compilation disc, but these sports do? It’s because the sports offered in Mario Sports Mix don’t separate themselves enough to warrant standalone titles. I’ve played each sport for a good amount of time, and I’m still left wanting more. I would rather have a fully fleshed out version of one of the sports offered in Mario Sports Mix than have four games that play similarly, recycle animation and music, and offer only 2-3 minute games that generally leave you feeling unsatisfied.
Overall, Mario Sports Mix is a package that does not deliver. The highlights of the game is that it features Mario and some of the music is neat to listen to. Other than that, I don’t see many reasons to comeback to this game. Even the addition of being able to face others online can save this. Since this game was clearly made for playing with and against other people in the same room as you, you and your friends are probably better off finding something else to play. What happened, Mario? You were always a favorite at any social gathering.
- Title: Mario Sports Mix
- Platform Reviewed: Wii
- Developer: Square Enix
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Release date: Available Now
- MSRP: $49.99
- Review copy info: A copy of this title was provided by the publisher to DualShockers Inc. for the purpose of this review.