Mario and friends show off their sporty side.
Mario Sports Mix, developed by Square Enix for the Nintendo Wii, unites Mario and his friends for a fun fueled athletic sports game where all your favourite iconic Nintendo characters come together to play four action packed games. These include; Dodgeball, Basketball, Volleyball and Hockey. We’ve not seen Mario doing anything remotely energetic since the days of SEGA’s Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics where he spent his time skiing or snowboarding down some steep snow slopes.
Mario Sports Mix allows up to four players using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Players can choose from a variety of the Nintendo characters. From the menu you can decide whether you wish to play in Exhibition or Tournament and from here you can choose which AI characters you wish to compete against. The game also provides a basic sports controls reference sheet in which all of the common controls can be found for all of the sports. This could prove to be quite essential if you have some trouble remembering them all.
Toad was my first character when first embarking on Basketball which, when looking back, wasn’t the best of options because Toad is extremely short. The courts to play on vary from the grassy and sporty Mario Stadium to the sunnier climates of Koopa Trooper Beach. The objective of the game is to shoot as many hoops as possible in the time indicated. Most of the time the Wiimote is used to flick and jump, and waving the wiimote to dunk or slam a basketball. The gamer can use the A button to pass the ball between players. Players can block the shots of opposing players, preventing them from scoring any points. Each character has a special move by pressing the A and B button together to perform a cool action or conjure up a trick shot by pressing the Z button and rotating the control stick. Toad’s action consisted to throwing out pink and white exploding mushrooms, much to Diddy Kong’s distaste. Coins can be collected on court, which can then be added to your score and special question mark boxes appear on the floor which when stepped on can reward you with coins and items. At one point I tried to steal the basketball from the other team, which resulted in Toad having a punch up with Diddy Kong as he teased me with the ball up the court. The result of this was Toad wrestling Diddy Kong to the floor where a hitting contest began as players flick their Wiimote in protest and a fight breaks out. After I had prized the ball off of Diddy Kong, after he unleashed kamikaze oversized bananas at my head, he then laid on the floor waving his arms and legs about in a monkey tantrum.
Western Junction is another one of the courts that is home to the great wild west, full of giant green prickly Cacti and a small train with tracks that run through the court. These tracks lay on turntables that rotate and can cause no end of trouble if you’re trying to move from one end of the court to the other. During the game, while quite happily playing centre court, I just happen to notice a train passing by from the corner of my eye. Sitting in each compartment were shy guys who were frantically throwing banana skins which covered the court and sent me slipping onto my Toady bottom more than once.
Most of the sports are fairly straightforward to play. During my gallivanting around the Volleyball court I attempted to outsmart Bowser by slamming the ball over the net. Players simply toss the ball up by shaking the wiimote and while the ball is in the air, shake the wiimote to serve. If for some reason you drop the ball, hit it out of bounds or fail to return it within three hits, then your opponent gains a point. It’s a race to see if my team can score 15 points and the first team to win two sets wins the match. Pink areas light under each character to show you where the ball is likely to fall, as it isn’t always easy to judge the distance between players and the court net.
Party mode offers a number of small distractions from the main game. One of the mini games sees the player trying to score a basket by lobbing fruit into the mouth of Peter Piranha. The larger fruit is worth more points and the player with the most points wins. The courts include Daisy Garden, DK Dock and Wario Factory. This area I found especially taxing due to the fact that I was playing against the CPU’s which certainly feels a lot more difficult. I would recommend playing against real players to progress through this stage. Trying to land on the pink designated areas will almost always end up with the pushing and shoving antics of the other Nintendo characters.
The other mini games include Harmony Hustle and Bob-omb Dodge. Harmony Hustle allows players to play in Classic Ocean, Chocobo Rhythm and Mario Athletic areas. This involves catching coloured balls which are being thrown out of a large melody machine. The player has to catch the balls in the rhythm of the music, while trying not to be hit by the spiky balls that are thrown in to distract you. This was a fairly relaxing mode, if only Yoshi could keep his tongue in his mouth for one minute. For some unknown reason, while we were all running around, Yoshi would randomly target someone and try to eat them. The odd banana skin is also catapulted in during gameplay for good measure and to keep you on your toes, if not your bottom at times. In Bob-omb Dodge you can choose from Mario Stadium, Ghoulish Galleon and Western Junction. The idea behind this game is for players to avoid the Bob-ombs from the cannon. If you’re caught in an explosion you will also lose a life.
Over the years, Mario has been involved in a number of dedicated sports games, such as Golf, Tennis, Baseball and Soccer in the Strikers series. This time around, In Mario Sports Mix, the player gets four of these sports and they are offered in a full-featured way, with each individual sport rivaling the content of these older, single sport games. Do not be fooled into thinking that Mario Sports Mix is a mini-game compilation. It is not. In fact, the mini-games that are provided are perhaps the weakest part of the package. The four sports themselves are a lot of fun to play. However, everything becomes repetitive after a while.
When is a party game not a party game? When it is Mario Sports Mix. The fun and hilarity that can come from the four sports, combined with the competitive nature, make this game ideal for gatherings of friends in a party atmosphere. Yet the lack of variety will find the party short lived. If you are a fan of any of the sports included and would love to see your favorite Nintendo characters taking part in that sport, then Mario Sports Mix would have to be an essential purchase.