Mario and Sonic are heading to the 2014 winter games in Sochi, Russia, the latest stop on their globetrotting Olympic adventure. As with any party game, there are going to be highlights and lowlights when it comes to the individual events. As always, there are a few standout mini-games that elevate themselves above the rest; and of course, there are a few that should probably be skipped over too, so let’s take a look at the ups and downs of Mario and Sonic’s Russian adventure.
Probably our favourite of all the events on offer is Ice Hockey. This for the most part drops the finicky motion controls entirely, allowing us to use the D pad and buttons for a more responsive experience. It’s also amongst the more exciting events just by its nature, with more characters on screen at once, and just the right balance of skill and chaos.
Street Hockey is the dream event version of this, with the good-looking environments and bonus goals giving rise to the most fun you can have with the entire game. It’s so far above most other events that we’d rather see an expanded version of this as a standalone release.
Figure skating is a frustrating and imprecise addition to the game, which should really have been nailed by the Wii U’s motion controls, but sadly flops. Punishingly difficult even before taking the dodgy controls into account, it’s the game’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge your movements that mark this out as amongst the worst the package has to offer.
The biggest problem the game has is in its inconsistent controls, despite the vast majority of games taking almost identical formats. It’s almost always a race to get to the bottom of a hill as quickly as possible on some form of equipment, but steering is more a case of luck than judgment. Too often we found ourselves spinning wildly off-piste from an unfortunate turn of the controller, with the fussy detection giving us some serious headaches. Skiing is probably the worst offender for this, although things do vastly improve on snowboards. We do get a little bored of the sight of wide plains of white snow whooshing past as we hurtle towards the wall.
Much neater and more innovative is the Curling, which makes the most of the Wii U’s gamepad. We’re encouraged to map out a strategy on the second screen, before taking up the motion controller to dispatch the stone homewards. It’s a great combination of the Wii U’s various capabilities, and we wish the rest of the game had taken its lead.
Hole in one Curling is an upgrade of this, combining curling and golf to send a character down an icy course to try and steer the giant stone into a target. Again, its good fun that shows what happens when you use a little imagination. The dream events take more of the monotony away, bringing in some fantastical elements, and the mini boss encounters in Legends Showdown mode are welcome additions. These are hugely challenging, introducing a character from either of the two stables to compete in an entirely un-Olympic event. These are amongst the game’s stronger moments, when Nintendo does what it does best, concentrating on fun and innovation ahead of the simple tie-in that the game is on the surface.
So there you have some of the better games in this year’s collection, as well as some of the worst. There are a few too many downhill races for our tastes, and a lack of overall variety across the events. Control issues dog the worst of these, but it is those that either use the Wii U’s gamepad or bypass the motion controls entirely that take away the gold medals.