Mario-Sports-Mix-Review Mario Sports Mix Review

   13/06/2011 at 22:10       Joe Bennett       4 COMMENTS. - Score 1/5
 - Mario, Sports, Mix, Wii, Review

The marketing blurb on the back of the case states that Mario Sports Mix enables you to “Play Dodgeball, Volleyball, Basketball and Hockey like never before”. But that statement is missing five very important words to make it entirely accurate. Those words are…’and never want to again’.

This is no Mario Tennis, Mario Golf or Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. It’s not even as over-the-top or as fun as Mario Strikers Charged, a game it would have done well to emulate. Instead it plays like a collection of sports games you’d expect to encounter as mini-games in a Mario Party title.

The aforementioned Mario Strikers Charged was far from perfect, but it had a good mixture of depth and accessibility and kept the player entertained, even if the characters weren’t particularly well balanced. The balancing in Mario Sports Mix is better, but then that’s arguably because it’s difficult to notice that much difference between the characters when out on the court (or rink, or beach). It is however painfully lacking in depth and has none of the accessibility that Mario Sports titles are famous for.

Each of the sports has similar controls, which helps with familiarity, but each person I played the game with found the controls complicated to understand and the action itself messy. “What’s going on now?” “I can’t see who has the ball?” “Where’s my team mate?” and “Why’s he not shooting?” were all common questions. Indeed it can be very difficult to work out what’s going on during all of the sports other than Volleyball, but that suffers from being the most dull rendition of a sport ever. You can charge up power-shots and dodge/feint your way around opponents but, as they invariably don’t help, pressing A to pass and shaking the Wiimote to shoot is more than sufficient to win most games.

Unless you have a full compliment of four players, and also restrict the action to 2 vs 2 rather than 3 vs 3, games degenerate into players trying to do it all on themselves as team mate AI is atrocious. And as player switching is done in sequential order, rather than who the ball is closest to (or at least it seems to be, I must admit it seemed to flit between the two models throughout the game), it’s a bit of a lottery to pass to a team mate and then hope to gain quick control of them. So you don’t. You try to run all the way up the court with the ball and do it all yourself.

That’s in the games that you can control the ball all of the time. In games such as volleyball or dodgeball inevitably you’re going to have to rely on your AI team mates at some stage, and it’s here that those particular sports fall down. Dodgeball especially turns into a game whereby unless you can guess which player the opposition is going to throw the ball at, you’re almost guaranteed to lose some health off of that player as the AI will just stare at the slow incoming ball and make no attempt to catch it. Playing alone just accentuates these flaws. And it also introduces some new ones.

Each sport has it’s own tournament structure but this also means that you have to sit through the Mushroom Cup for each sport. The tedium of the Mushroom Cup, where your opponents essentially stand still and present no challenge at all, is something that we shouldn’t have to endure anymore. My very first game of Ice Hockey ended up with a score of 67-0. The Flower Cup provides a little more challenge, but it’s still possible to win each game with a very healthy lead. All that is except Volleyball, where the AI first starts to show it’s poorly imbalanced ‘intelligence’. By the time you reach the Star cup in this particular event, it’s a test of how much frustration you can take before wanting to bludgeon your animated team mates with the Wiimote.

There are many other issues with Mario Sports Mix. The items often found in Mario Kart make an appearance here, but are even more poorly balanced. The introduction of coins essentially bricks the game, by making the games in which they appear more about collecting coins than going for goal due to each coin being worth an extra goal/point whenever you next score. Why worry about defending your goal and conceding one point when you could pick up five coins instead and then have your next shot worth six points.

The overall quality of presentation is also lacking, especially considering that while not a first-party title (this is developed by Square Enix and not Nintendo, which is why you’ll be able to unlock characters such as Moogle), it features the Mario name. Visually it’s acceptable but the audio leaves a lot to be desired, the menu presentation is clunky and the tutorial movies are in such low resolution that they look like they’ve been filmed on a camera-phone.

Worse still is that this clearly had ‘party’ play in mind at concept stage, yet it has not been developed accordingly. The majority of the games last for far too long. Ignoring the fact that it’s tedious, even if Volleyball was fun, do I really want to spend 30 minutes playing one match against a friend? And the included mini-games would be considered amongst the worst in a Mario Party collection, let alone worthwhile additions to an already thread-bare experience.

About the only good point I can recall of my time with Mario Sports Mix was the final ‘surprise’ that the game serves up when you have won all cups for each of the sports. I won’t spoil it for those of you that make the effort to sit though the numbing depression of the five or so hours that precede that surprise, but suffice to say, even though it is memorable, it’s still not worth the effort.

Before playing this I would have thought it almost impossible to ever experience a truly awful Mario Sports title. Even one of the weaker titles, Mario Strikers Charged, still managed to offer up a few laughs in multiplayer and Mario Golf (Gamecube) and Mario Tennis were all worthwhile additions to the sporting genre. How you can take a cast of recognisable characters with a world so varied, fun and colourful as Mario’s and turn it into a bad sports party game I still don’t know. But Square Enix somehow have. It’s certainly an achievement, but perhaps not one that they’ll want to be remembered for.

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