Now well rested from competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games, SEGA jet Mario, Sonic and pals to Russian’s snowy climbs as they prepare to dominate the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Ski jumping, curling, ice hockey and figure skating make up the 25 events that are immediately accessible to you through the Single Match mode, split between standard Olympic events as well as the Dream variety that spruce up the concept with more wild ideas. The Dream events – which include Snowball Scrimmage, Hole-in-One Curling and the Bullet Bill Sledge Race – will easily become clear favourites here, offering more replayability than their Olympic counterparts even if a lack of track variety is missed.
It is Legend Showdown that is posited as the game’s core mode, dividing the 20-strong character roster (sadly not bolstered any further than those that appear in previous titles) into a team of four as they compete in events across five areas, whoever proving victorious claiming the imaginatively titled Legend Trophy.
This rather throwaway mode, as you’ll soon realise, is simply geared toward progressing you in turn through each of the game’s separate events in a more structured way, pitting you against cloned competitors – whose existence is never really explained – before taking on a more recognisable rival. Fail at any point, and you’re continually offered the chance to start over until you eventually succeed. The slow-paced nature doesn’t help things, although it does add the neat touch of seeing you earn Mii outfit items for each area that you complete, which proves its eventual draw if you meet the required A+ score, more creativity in approach is needed.
This is accompanied by the Action & Answer Tour sees Orbot and Cubot play host, quizzing participants as they speed their way through randomly selected events across a preset number of rounds. These add novel twists to the events such as placing a die on the track which competing players must bump into to reveal a duplicate number on its sides, shooting incoming targets once you can see what shape is imprinted on them, or being observant enough to see which character appears twice on your surroundings. These are all rather hit and miss with some ending far more abruptly than others, although competitiveness is soon heightened through players being granted the opportunity to steal points from one another.
Meanwhile Medley Mania groups events by individual themes, whether that be those that feature Sonic and Mario stages or by particular event types. Great in the sense that you can jump into grouped events that run around your favourites, but this just feels like filler – fluffing out the game with an additional mode that attempts to hide just how little content it actually has.
By far the area in which most thought has been placed is the Worldwide Vs. mode, which sees the series jumping into the online arena for the first time. Here your Mii hops aboard a miniature plane as you seek opponents to face, either plucked from your registered friends list or matched against anyone similarly hunting for players globally. Whenever you claim a medal you will earn points for your home country, which is a novel idea, although sadly there are only four events playable – Freestyle Ski Cross, Snowboard Cross, Short Track Speed Skating (1000m), and Winter Sports Champion Race – meaning that the appeal to actively return to this is limited. Which is an inevitable shame, considering how under-utilised the Nintendo Network is at present aside from Miiverse engagement.
It’s perhaps the Wii U GamePad itself that receives the most confused implementation. In a series that has long been Wii Remote Plus-focused, Nintendo’s new controller initially seems to become fairly redundant – reduced to a scoreboard monitor or the Mario & Sonic TV Channel on which Toad and his commentating team merely provide a observational viewpoint to the event you’re currently in. Pointless, considering you’re transfixed to your TV screen which in itself shows a more exhilarating perspective to anyone sat watching.
Yet soon enough you’ll stumble upon events that unnecessarily sees you switch from Wii Remote Plus to Wii U GamePad, a baffling design choice the outcome of which sees you scramble to swap controllers – the Biathlon seeing you change when moving between skiing to shooting, for instance. Elsewhere, some events force the first player to use the Wii U GamePad whilst others use Wii Remote Plus,’ even being unable to choose the latter when playing alone.
It is inconsistency in approach that ultimately mars Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, resulting in a tepid experience that fails to provide the necessary drive to elevate the series beyond that which has come before. Confusing decisions hamper this further although families who enjoyed previous titles will find that there is fun to be had, just expect to have seen most of what waits for you here before.