After recently receiving a Wii from Nintendo, we at pnosker.com wondered how we'd be indoctrinated into the Nintendo community. What game would they send us for our initial review? That game was Mario Sports Mix and our review's coming up right after the jump.
Mario and all his cutely animated little friends are no n00bs when it comes to playing sports. They've been a part of the Olympics, baseball, soccer and pretty much anything else you can think of. They're seasoned veterans at this point but Mario Sports Mix doesn't follow the tried and true Mario Sports formula; it links together seemingly unrelated sports into a strange little patchwork.
The four sports here are dodgeball, basketball, volleyball and hockey. Basketball's obviously a staple of Mario's athletic prowess with the last game Square Enix developed involving Mario was Mario Hoops 3 on 3 for the Nintendo DS. Volleyball and hockey have made cameo appearances in previous Mario sports titles while dodgeball is making its debut.
Basketball pretty much seems like it always has. It seems like a dumbed down version of NBA Street without the urban edge. The entire key to the game involves jumping up right as the other team is shooting and consistently goaltending. The offensive gameplan, like Street, is to dunk, dunk and dunk some more. This pretty much means that whichever team has the most powerful player, usually Donkey Kong or Bowser, is probably going to win. That's nothing out of the ordinary; this mode is just what you've come to expect out of Mario Basketball.
Dodgeball, the new addition, is by far the most fun of any of the games. The controls are simple so the whole family will easily master them in the span of a few minutes and you get to peg Nintendo characters! What could be bad about that? The rules of dodgeball have been altered, allowing for more than one hit per player before they are out and even then they can easily be revived. This lengthens the games and draws them out, usually making you more invested in the outcome.
Volleyball isn't breaking any new ground. It's standard volleyball rules with simple controls. Far from just an add on, it's probably the most realistic and polished portion of this game. It honestly feels pretty much like volleyball. The special moves of the characters, which are nothing new to Mario sports veterans, basically just spike harder, which is a normal move in regulation volleyball albeit probably with a little less oomph. But both are still basically impossible to counter so kudos to Nintendo and Square Enix for using the arcade gameplay to still exhibit realism.
The last mode, hockey, is by far the worst. As anybody who reads this website regularly knows I'm a huge hockey fan who loves the NHL series irrationally. But this is just a travesty. The goal is to just shoot the puck from the blue line or sometime center ice and most of the time it'll go in. It's an upset when it doesn't. There isn't much to this one and even hockey fans will be bored by it in a short amount of time.
There isn't much depth to this game beyond the chief four modes. There are tournaments to unlock Square characters and win prizes but they are just extensions and links of exhibition gameplay. It's designed as an all in the family party game. If you're playing by yourself it can get boring, but like all other Nintendo games in this vein, Mario Party for example, it's much fun for the whole family.
There are different locales that have similar attributes no matter what sport is being played, as you'd expect. They're all pretty much stereotypical Mario locales that you've most likely seen in other games a la Mario Kart. Places like Wario's Factory, Mario Stadium and every other venue have their own special features that impact the games but generally still keep the sports the same. They'll change things but usually just spice them up.
All in all, Mario Sports Mix mixes up sports with Mario into a package the whole family can enjoy. It's not a title for the hardcore, single gamer as they'll probably run out of stuff to do in a few hours. But like the Wii in general, it's a great game for the whole family and has a large shelf life in that arena.