After successfully teaming up to tackle the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, it was only natural that Sonic and Mario would do so once again, this time for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. This officially licenced game sees characters from both of the franchises tackle Olympic sports, as well as a few slightly more original ones, in the most prestigious Winter Sports competition on the planet.
There are a total of nine Olympic events which can be played in the game and there is quite a lot of variety between them. Obviously there are the stereotypical skiing events, but Ice Hockey and Figure Skating are also present. A few of the events also have different disciplines, which helps to add even more events. For example, the Bobsleigh event can also be performed solo, using the Skeleton and the Speed Skating events can be performed as a relay.
To compliment the traditional events, there are also Dream Events. These display a lot more creative licence and are actually a lot of fun to play. Some of them offer modifications of the Olympic events, while others are completely different, like Snow Ball Fighting. They are much more relaxed and will probably appeal a lot more to fans of the individual franchises due to the references that can be found within. For example, the Dream Figure Skating competition that takes place in the Sonic World is a tribute to Sonic Adventure. It features arranged music from the game, and even has a simulated boss battle against Chaos.
The crux of the game is Festival Mode, which sees players take part in a 17 day event with the ultimate goal of attaining the most points. Each day, players will have to take part in 2-3 events which can either be based around learning a new event, competing for an Olympic medal, or winning a Dream Event. There are also some Rival challenges in there too, which sees the player square off against someone like King Boo. It's a pretty decent mode, although it's not overly engaging. It mainly serves as a strong introduction to the majority of the events found within the game.
While there may be a plethora of events to play, not all of them are overly enjoyable due to the controls. In some events, the controls work really well, but in others they are just sticky and awkward. The majority of them revolve around holding the Wii Remote in certain positions, but it doesn't necessarily seem to translate that well to the on-screen action. In some events, like Skiing, it works to a point, but sometimes the commands will be missed and it takes a while to recover. When jumping is added to the equation, it just makes things worse as a long jump, if it actually works, may leave players needing to make a sharp turn that just isn't possible.Other events, namely the trick based ones, try to incorporate gesture controls to the mix, as players have to draw certain shapes with the Wii Remote to match those on screen. It doesn't really work all that well though, and since there's no real indication about performance, other than a word, it's actually quite difficult to tell if the speed and motion is being performed correctly. The speed that players need to react to the command is also quite unreasonable, and often leads to failed attempts first time around.
These problems make the generic sporting events quite a chore to play, although sometimes there isn't much that can be done. It's quite difficult to make Curling into an engaging sport. The Dream Events really help to raise the bar though and are much more fun. It doesn't necessarily matter that the controls are a bit stiff, because what's happening on-screen helps to distract players. Some of the game's best moments are definitely to be had in these events.
The game has great presentation across the board, although the announcer can sometimes become a bit grating. The music choice throughout the game is excellent and as well as the original music, there are plenty of traditional tunes in there for fans to enjoy. There's also a good amount of characters to choose from, and fans will also recognise some of the lesser known characters making cameo appearances, like Mighty the Armadillo and Charmy Bee, from Chaotix. It's also possible to use Miis in the game, and they can be outfitted with numerous different clothing options. For those who wish to try different controls, it's also worth noting that quite a few of the events can also be played using the Wii Balance Board, which is an optional, and a new feature for this game.
There is a decent amount of replayability to be found in Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Winter Games as all of the events can be played at any time. Party games are also available, although they essentially just revolve around playing the events with slightly different overall incentives attached. Quite a lot of what the player does while playing the game will give points which can be spent in the in-game store. Here, players can buy custom outfits for their Mii, and create things like Snowboard designs. It's also possible to buy decorations for the town, and learn more about the Winter Olympics.
Despite having an extensive amount of events on offer, Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Winter Games is plagued by controls that make enjoying them quite difficult. It's a shame, because the game has a solid foundation and builds on it with the Dream Events, but it just doesn't capitalise on this enough. Fans of the two franchises will like the references that creep in throughout, and it may satisfy casual gamers for a little while, but ultimately Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Winter Games is a game that doesn't reach its potential.