It’s not often when a sports game sequel expands massively over it’s predecessor, especially one that is on a platform which is generally considered a “second priority” over the main Wii version. With this in mind, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter games on the DS somewhat surprised me, mainly due to the inclusion of a brand new adventure mode. On top of this, very few of the games are simply rehashes of the Summer Olympics with a snow coating. Are the new games engaging, and is the adventure mode more than just a shell for missions? Well, lets find out.
Adventure Tours slots the missions from the previous Mario & Sonic Olympic game into a simplistic RPG hub. Taking control of Mario & Sonic (you can swap between them at will) you wonder round the towns talking to people and completing missions. The story (saving Snow Spirits from Bowser and Dr Robotnik) takes a back seat to the gameplay, which is probably best for such a simplistic plot and it holds your hand for a large chunk of the puzzles.
Unfortunately, a bit too much time is consumed by wondering about confusing level layouts and backtracking, although you are rewarded with bits of amusing (yet never hilarious) bits of dialogue and some nice little character touches. Luigi’s character surprisingly shines more than anyone else, despite having no dialogue whatsoever. In the end, it still provides a nice environment and motivation to play through the missions and try out each event.
The events are plentiful, and some offer much more replayability than others. The timed/racing events will keep you coming back for better times and are much more fun in multiplayer. Other than curling, all the non-race events are fairly forgettable and dull to play. It’s a good job that there are plenty of race events – from the simple Speed Skating provides a very short dash, while Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding provide a longer event where precision rewards you with boosts. Bobsleigh and it’s varients provide a very frantic, fast-paced event where the smallest of mistakes can ruin a world record. Cross Country Skiing mixes things further by providing a 2D Excitebike-styled track and a stamina metre and boost pads (so frantically mashing A won’t get you a win).
The developers certainly knew that the touch screen can’t be shamelessly used for everything, as plenty of events ditch the screen in order for more traditional button controls, which creates even more variety in what could have been very similar events – Alpine Skiing uses touch screen controls while Snowboarding uses buttons. There’s certainly enough content to keep you entertained for a while.
As with the last game, there are also dream events. Once again Skiing, Snowboarding and Bobsleigh stand out. Ski Cross Racing and Extreme Snowboarding play like simplified versions of Mario Kart – complete with Mario & Sonic inspired items – while Blazing Bob-sleigh is reminiscent of F-Zero, right down to the spin attack and side attack. These modes would have benefited massively from a couple of extra courses, rather than getting stuck with the one course for each event.
Multiplayer allows you to play each event (dome Dream events require unlocking in Adventure mode) with up to four players through single-cart and multi-cart play. You can play events one at a time or create a cup consisting of multiple events. The loading speeds for single-cart play can be a bit slow, but it’s much better than having a limited experience. There is also a party mode, which lets you play random games in the middle of random luck sections – winning events seems to have a minimal effect on the outcome. Sadly, multiplayer is missing the option for a pass-and-play mode, which would be perfect for a game like this, especially as the majority of events could be done in a pass-and-play situation.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games provides a nice shell for minigame-based missions with a bit of charm to it. It has some solid games mixed in with a few ones that could however also be instantly forgotten. It’s no classic, but definitely a step in the right direction. Multiplayer undoubtedly provides some great fun if you can get some friends/siblings with their own DS’s.