Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Game Review - Mario Sports Mix

Format: Wii

Mario’s fame can pose the Italian plumber some real problems at times. Tying Nintendo’s mascot into party games is a tricky affair due to it being a rarity for the game to be an actual success. Mario Sports Mix isn’t Mario’s first attempt in the sports world and by no means his best, but that’s not to say there isn’t fun to be had across the board of available sports. Basketball sees you and your friends face off or throw the AI into the mix for some heated street balling, field and ice hockey also show off creativity and sparks of life, unfortunately dodgeball and volleyball are relatively shallow and uninviting experiences that are perhaps best left alone and avoided altogether. Mario Sports Mix produces some terrific graphics, easy to use control schematics and lots of fun surprise appearances from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy and Dragonquest characters. It is just a shame that the gameplay itself is not as immersive as some of the other content present.

Mario Sports Mix follows the traditional tournament based formula that has made all of Mario’s prior competitive encounters so famous. Playing against the AI is certainly a monotonous affair in the various tournaments on offer, with the game’s difficulty curve being ridiculously easy and then suddenly ridiculously cheap and unfair, certainly making the AI an inconsistent opponent. Playing with your friends helps to make the experience more entertaining but unfortunately Mario Sports Mix just doesn’t have the replay value you would hope a party game would have and it becomes tedious rather quickly.

There is always light at the end of the tunnel and this light is in the shape of a Basketball hoop. Naturally almost all of the actual sports’ rules are simplified and neglected, opting for an arcade like experience that sees you launching massive alley-oops and throwing huge three-pointers all day long. The balance of the game is what lets it down, especially when playing defense, as you feel incredibly overpowered with the ability to stop almost any shot taken towards the hoop. This makes playing on offense seem like a game of potluck where catching your opponent napping is the only way to effectively score points.

Hockey is also a decent game that offers some interesting entertainment. The games pacing is good and allows you to link up well with teammates quite effectively. AI goalkeepers seem to be hockey’s biggest issue, especially when at times they are unbeatable and then moments later, let in the simplest of shots; you just don’t know where you stand with regards to your last line of defense and this can be infuriating. It is also a real shame to see Mario Sports Mix try to implement the traditional fighting that is seen in hockey, only to have it become a Wiimote waggling affair that is neither fun nor worth the time and effort.

It’s a real crime that those two sporting outings are the only good ones on Mario Sports Mix because if Volleyball and Dodgeball were even remotely as entertaining, then it could have been a good party game. The former is simply a case of running to where the ball mark is and the game automatically launches the ball back. The latter is impossible because catching the ball is so easy you rarely ever knock out opposing team members.

In typical Mario-esque fashion, there are still some nifty additions to Mario Sports Mix that help liven up the experience. As you would expect, various items are available to be used throughout the sports including such classics like mushrooms, bananas, turtle shells, bombs and stars. Each character has their own special ability, which normally lead to automatic goals that although are cheap, are loads of fun to pull off. Each venue or court has their own unique environmental advantages and disadvantages, giving the game an unpredictable edge that keeps you on your toes. This mushroom kingdom charm is portrayed perfectly and is sure to bring smiles to Nintendo fans’ faces.

Ultimately Mario Sports Mix isn’t a bad game; it simply feels like a non-finished product. Everything is in place to be an entertaining sports party package, but the lack of effort put into the games and consequentially the lacking amounts of effort you will put into the games, is poor. A lack of any sort of skill required, shallow controls and unresponsive and sluggish gameplay make Mario Sports Mix a let down in the gameplay area. The great graphics and audio, beautiful environments and that everlasting Mario charm do make you feel like you are once again part of the Mario Kingdom and if you don’t mind simple and mindless entertainment to pass the time, than Mario Sports Mix is one to try out and pass the hours with.

Technical presentation – 7.0

Graphics – 9.0

Game-play – 5.0

Replay value – 4.0

Final score – 6 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor.

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