Video Game Review: 'Mario Sports Mix'

Filed under: Video Games


Rated ON for Ages 8 and Up

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that "Mario Sports Mix" is a collection of four sports-themed games that supports simultaneous local multiplayer action for up to four players (assuming you have at least four remotes) as well as anonymous online play. It's a good catalyst for social gaming experiences in the living room. Note, though, that while most of the sports and mini-games feature very little violence, hockey pits players against one another in fights that involve a bit of fierce remote waggling. The action is cartoonish, but characters swing at each other with sticks until one is knocked down.

The good stuff

  • Ease of play: Exhibition matches and mini-games offer players the option of changing between three difficulties. The easiest offers early grade-schoolers a good chance of success while the hardest should prove a fair test for experienced gamers. Players can also select whether to use a remote and nunchuk combination or simply a remote, which simplifies controls and is a better choice for beginners.
  • Educational value: Meant to entertain rather than educate.
  • Online interaction: Players can play against others -- strangers or registered friends -- online. There is no support for voice or text communication, meaning players cannot exchange information with one another.
  • Messages: Aside from helping foster an interest in four real world sports, this game encourages friendly competition, cooperation, and social gaming. There is a little fighting in hockey, and players can unlock tricks that can turn the game around.
  • Role models: Each of the game's heroes and villains is equipped with animations and facial expressions depicting celebration and dejection. Winners don't gloat, but the losers are clearly sad and frustrated for having lost.

What to watch out for

  • Violence & scariness: Roughhousing is generally limited to characters getting beaned by balls then falling on the ground. In hockey, however, characters can get into fights with one another that players control by rapidly waving the Wii Remote back and forth. Fights are depicted via flailing arms, swung sticks, puffs of smoke, and, at the end, someone falling backwards on his or her bum. A separate hockey mini-game has players whacking each other in an effort to knock opponents off of a platform.
  • Language: Not an issue.
  • Consumerism: This game stars Mario -- the world's most popular and prolific video game character -- and other Nintendo icons. It also references characters and music from non-Nintendo games, including those in Square Enix's Final Fantasy library.
What's the Story?

A collection of fantasy sports simulations, "Mario Sports Mix" offers competitive and cooperative play for up to four players. Just choose a sport -- hockey, basketball, volleyball, or dodgeball -- pick your favorite Nintendo personality, and you're ready to play. All of the sports can be played either in exhibition mode or as part of a series of short tournaments that unlock new arenas and playable characters. Party Play, meanwhile, offers a small collection of sports-themed mini-games that range from throwing food into a piranha plant's mouth as though you were throwing basketballs through a hoop to using hockey checks and shots to bump opponents off a platform.

Is It Any Good?

It may feature only a handful of events, but "Mario Sports Mix" is a cut above other sports compilation games in plenty of ways. For starters, the sports aren't static from one match to the next. There are dozens of different arenas, and each one introduces entirely new challenges that change a player's strategy, whether it's a rotating floor, a train that comes barreling through the field at set intervals, or fountains and pylons that block the goal. Plus, each character has his or her own strengths and weakness, which means switching avatars does much more than just change your character's appearance.

Meanwhile, a quartet of mini-games -- the best of which is a music game that has up to four players working as a team bumping balls volleyball-style in an effort to keep the song going -- add real value to the experience. Nintendo doesn't plop its red-capped plumber into just any old game. As team sports compilations go, this one stands atop the podium on Wii.

For Nintendo Wii.

This review written by Chad Sapieha.

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