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'Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games' review (Wii U)

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Released on Friday, Nov 8 2013

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

© Nintendo

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games


Release Date: November 8 (Europe), November 15 (North America)
Platforms available on: Wii U
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Party

Going back 20 years or so, the thought of Mario and Sonic appearing together in a video game seemed about as likely as box office rivals Arnie and Sly tearing it up on the silver-screen.

Still, here we are in 2013 with Escape Plan in movie theatres, and the fourth game in Mario and Sonic's Olympic series about to make its debut on the Wii U.

Unfortunately, despite some enjoyable encounters in the multiplayer department, Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games is lacking the sublime to go with the star power.

One of the game's biggest problems is that despite the addition of the Nintendo Gamepad, Mario & Sonic at the Sochi Winter Games feels like a rehash of previous efforts.

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

© Nintendo

Snowboarding in Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games



Not only does it lack new ideas, featuring largely the same selection of mini-games as its predecessor, but it fails to flesh out potential innovations.

Take online mode, for example. First-party Nintendo games have been crying out for online multiplayer support since last year's console launch, with Nintendo Land and Wii Party U just two of the games that would benefit from an injection of global competition.

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games addresses this issue to an extent, but with only a handful of games playable online, it almost feels like they needn't have bothered.
    Despite some enjoyable multiplayer encounters, Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games is lacking the sublime to go with the star power
The events selection process is even more baffling, with obvious versus sports such as ice hockey left out in favour of a couple of skiing and skating events.

The controls are also a source of bemusement. Some of the games require Wii Remote Plus - skiing, for example - while a similar event such as snowboarding uses the Gamepad and its gyroscope.

Figure skating, meanwhile, is seemingly tailor-made for the Gamepad - players could draw shapes to perform tricks and lean left or right to balance - and yet there's no option to play on the Wii U's primary controller.

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

© Nintendo

Curling in Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games



It's not a gamebreaker - the controls are responsive and accurate - but having to switch between controllers on a consistent basis sometimes feels like an unnecessary source of irritation.

The game also lacks a killer party mode for solo players and groups. There's the perfectly serviceable 'Legends Showdown' mode, which sees players tackle events and boss battles in quick succession.

It's backed up by a convenient Medley Mania mode, which groups events together without a narrative, and the terrible 'Action and Answer Tour', which adopts a gameshow format.

Presented by Cubot and Orbot, players compete in altered versions of Olympic events, each containing different objectives.


One of the better rule changes sees participants earn points for memorising figure skating routines without visual cues, with each correctly sequenced move counting as a correct answer.

The majority of events are less successful, however. In speed skating, players must identify where a photograph was taken by skating towards the cameraperson. It's over in seconds.

In the snowboarding event, players are required to collect a specific snowflake from a choice of four before reaching the finish line. It too is over in seconds.

The same is true of ice hockey, ski jump and other events, leading to gaming sessions that feature lots of text and very little actual competition.

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

© Nintendo

Co-op figure skating is one of the better games



Fortunately, despite all of the game's strange design choices and inconsistencies, the actual events are a lot of fun, especially when played with friends.

Whether lining up as a four-piece to compete in bobsled, or holding hands to figure skate, Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games gets it right where it counts.

Dream events are especially enjoyable, removing the shackles of the Olympic licence in favour of mini-games that are much more imaginative and adventurous.
    When the action is go and games are in full swing, Mario & Sonic at the Sochi Winter Games is a flashy and fun mini-game compilation for all of the family
'Snowball Scrimmage', which is one of our favourites, sees players attempt to roll a giant ball into a goal while attempting to avoid rapid snowball fire.

There's an extensive and exciting winter sports race involving skis, skates and sleds, an improved ice hockey arena with lots of obstacles, and even a game where curling meets golf on a giant scale.

Utilising a bright and colourful visual style, which takes the best from Sega and Nintendo, the presentation is superb and the game looks fantastic in HD.

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

© Nintendo

Dream events are much more colourful



The same is true of the soundtrack, which is packed full of catchy Sega tunes, as well as punchy, powerful sound effects.

And while we would have preferred to have used the Gamepad for even more events, the screen's TV-style presentation and commentary is a great touch, even if players will be too busy concentrating on the games to notice.

When the action is go and events are in full swing, Mario & Sonic at the Sochi Winter Games is a flashy and fun mini-game compilation for all of the family.

Like an Olympic athlete with an injury problem, however, it's more likely to be remembered as a game that never quite lived up to its potential.


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