With a motion control apparatus present on every major console system now, it seems like we’ve somehow invented a new genre of game: the sports compilation. When the Wii first came out, games like Wii Sports were all the rage, and it seemed like every developer was doing their best to come out with some variant on it. Five years later, and we’ve got a market that is flooded with this type of game, which is usually motion controlled, and often rushed and lacking the feel of a complete game. Occasionally you’ll get one or two games at the fringe that do the genre some good, but Mario Sports Mix isn’t one of them.
That’s not to say the game doesn’t have it’s saving graces. It is a genuinely fun game to play, at least for a while, and the cast of characters from previous Mario games is all present and accounted for. There are eight different sports to play, and each of those has a few variations on the game, so the game almost ends up being like a sports-themed Mario Party entry. Hockey and volleyball stand out as strong, in terms of gameplay, especially if you’ve got some friends to play with. While the game is incredibly easy versus the CPU opponents, if you add a few friends into the mix, the repetitive gameplay and chaos onscreen starts to become something that more resembles fun.
However, that’s part of the problem with this game, you almost need three more people to play against for it to be any fun. The game is so easy to play and win against CPU opponents, it almost borders on boredom, and the variants of each game mode aren’t much more exciting. It would have been nice to see more game modes, especially considering that the , Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, had 24 different events to compete in. While hockey is incredibly fun, and volleyball is fun enough to play, the game does have one terrible event, which is dodgeball. The most fun event is turned into the most tedious, becoming a game of timing more than frantic button-mashing and friendly ribbing between friends, like other Mario games.
The developers do try to find extra tidbits here and there for you to work towards, such as being able to unlock characters from both the Mario universe as well as the Square Enix games, but this gets a bit repetitive as well, as every character has to be unlocked four separate times, which can get tedious. It’s a good thing that the online component of this game works so well, otherwise it’s doubtful it would ever get played outside of your living room when you’ve got three friends over. A tournament mode tries to give you a reason to play this by yourself, but it’s likely you’ll give up in frustration after having to play the same match three times in a row.
It’s obvious that Nintendo has been doing the same thing that they did with the Gamecube towards the end of it’s consumer life cycle: trying to develop the system into a kid’s console. It’s a bit sad that this has become the Nintendo MO, not because the kids games aren’t fun, but because there is usually a marked decrease in the quality of the games. For a game with Mario’s iconic face on it, Mario Sports Mix just can’t get puck into the net.