Mario Sports Mix (Wii) Review
We’ve seen Mario in almost everything now. Whether it be something as simple as a platforming game to more strange genres like edutainment and rhythm dance games, Mario has had his fair share of careers throughout his illustrious career. When Nintendo first revealed the 3DS to the Western public at the 2010 Electronics Entertainment Expo, people were understandably excited. Another announcement that probably slipped under most people’s radar was the announcement of Mario Sports Mix, a compilation of sporting games that featured none other than the plumber himself. While we don’t have the 3DS just yet, Mario Sports Mix has since been released and to my surprise, it’s not that bad, nor does it really feel like yet another mini-game compilation. It’s just really fun.
As you’d expect from any game that either Square Enix or Nintendo have their hands in, Mario Sports Mix runs at a very smooth 60 fps, creating smooth animations and action that you’d expect from any first-party games. Characters all look great and animate beautifully, from all your favourites like Mario and Yoshi to the lesser known ones like Daisy and Bowser Jr., along with some other surprises too. Each level has been developed with a lot of care, and creates a comic yet suitable atmosphere for each arena. Every character has a special move that utilises great lighting effects to look really amazing. It’s clear that the teams at Square Enix/Nintendo have put a lot of thought and effort into creating the arenas for Mario Sports Mix and it’s even better seeing all their work come together to create something that suits the world perfectly, even if it comes from a developer other than Nintendo.
Mario Sports Mix is a package that features four different sports (Basketball, Volleyball, Hockey and Dodgeball) that have, thankfully, not yet been included in any iteration of previous sports games put out by Nintendo (and if they were featured, they most certainly weren’t in the capacity presented in Mario Sports Mix). All of the sports play rather differently and force players to employ different tactics to succeed, which is good considering that overall the offerings are a bit slim. The biggest thing players may need to remember is that this package is pretty much tailored to the casual market. There is no real skill needed to play the game, because a lot of the game comes down to luck. Think what Mario Sports Mix is to sports as what Mario Kart is to racing – if that makes sense. We’ll explain that notion in a bit more detail further on.
Despite being different sports, we found that most of the sports utilised similar control schemes. The game can be controlled with either the Wii Remote held horizontally, or with the Nunchuk and Wii Remote. The Nunchuk combination certainly worked best for all the sports. Movement is controlled with either the +Control Pad or Nunchuk, while the face buttons are used to pass the ball/puck around the arena. Motion controls are also utilised to shoot for goals, however it never feels too gimmicky and the execution is perfect. Carrying out certain moves during the game builds up a special meter, which is for a special move unique to the character and designed to give players the extra edge. These moves look great, aren’t terribly hard to activate or build up, and most of the time work quite well.
In addition to playing the actual sports, things can be mixed up with both items and/or gimmicks placed throughout levels. Each level, besides the basic court-looking one, has a quirk that intends to shake up the gameplay. The Luigi’s Mansion level, for example, has ghosts that steal certain things from players from time to time. Another level has randomly generating pads that, when shot from, offer a higher (or sometimes lower) score. It’s a cool system that mixes things up a bit but this will probably make purists steer clear – though this package isn’t for them so it’s definitely not a big deal at all. Additionally, in true Mario Kart fashion, Question Blocks appear throughout the court and unlock items. Thankfully there’s nothing anywhere near as annoying as a Thunderbolt, and the items only add to the frenetic and frantic action.
Of the four sports, we found all of them to be rather favourable and none of them felt boring or stale. Of particular fun was a full six-person match of Basketball played with four human players. That’s also one of the best things about Mario Sports Mix; it’s one of the most enjoyable Wii multiplayer games I’ve played for a while – mainly because it’s just so easy to play. The game also provides an awesome combo system that rewards players working together. It’s so rewarding to set up a spike in Volleyball, or a perfect slam dunk in Basketball in Mario Sports Mix, and yet they’re so easy to pull off.
As previously mentioned, although the game does offer single-player elements, it’s probably best enjoyed with friends. In that regard, there are heaps of options to play the game with up to four players, and it’s when you’ve got a full Wii that things get really frantic and also really enjoyable. Mario Sports Mix really surprised me in this regard, it’s just so fun to play with friends. I really cannot stress this enough.
For those who are playing solo, Nintendo has even included online functionality to play with either friends or worldwide. Despite there being a multitude of options, however, we were not able to find anyone else playing and as such were not able to test the online functionality. Still, the addition of online functionality was not only surprising, but it certainly adds life to the overall package for those who have their Wii connected.
With only four sports to choose from and none to unlock, Mario Sports Mix seems like a bit of a bare bones package. Each sport has the options to undertake tournaments or simple quick play, and despite these modes, some people may not see much value in the full priced package. There are also four other mini-games available to play in “Party Mode”, which although different to the sports, don’t offer very deep or engaging gameplay.
There are a few arenas and characters to unlock, including some from Square Enix’s other franchises (which you may have previously guessed just by looking at the copyrights on the title screen) and these elements are certainly welcomed. The only real problem with this package is the general lack of sports; it feels a little bit lacking compared to the likes of Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort especially. Still, there’s a lot of fun in this package, though I do admit the asking price seems quite high.
The game’s musical offerings absolutely scream “fan service” for fans of Mario. Your favourite tunes are all featured and some are even remixed in some modes of the game. Character sounds are still the same and have not changed, which is nice for continuity purposes. There is even a mini-game which is solely focused on music, and this mini-game features some of your favourite tunes too, including a rather cool remix of the classic water theme from older Mario games.
Mario Sports Mix is a very fun package of sports games, although it’s really hampered by its lack of selection. Despite the rather slim pickings, it’s still a very enjoyable package, especially for those who have people to play it with. A solid addition to any sociable Wii owner’s collection.
Despite the fact that were using no majorly new assets, Mario Sports Mix runs like a dream at a silky smooth frame rate with some really well developed environments.
Despite containing different sports, Mario Sports Mix provides a uniform control scheme that utilises everything that Wii owners have come to appreciate. Mixing things up a bit akin to Mario Kart with items and powers is certainly a polarising factor, however.
A great use of classic tunes, and voice work (if you can even call it that) that youve come to know and love.
The only real let-down of the package is the lack of sports included, especially when compared to other quality sporting compilations available. Online functionality is definitely a plus, though, and adds a lot of life to a very multiplayer-centric game, but for solo players.
Me and my group of friends had a lot of fun with Mario Sports Mix, despite feeling rather burnt out by compilations released for the Wii. It seems everything with that magic Nintendo touch is enjoyable to play with friends, who wouldve thought. (except Wii Music; no, weve not forgotten about that one).