Back in 2007 the idea of Mario and Sonic crossing over and competing in the Olympics seemed like a silly idea, sure it sounded interesting in a way and it was exciting to see these two rivals bury the hatchet but I was not honestly sold on the game. When I finally played it however I was infatuated, the idea was fun and had many great events all of which combined made the game standout. Fast forward to 2009 and I was ready and willing to jump into the next exciting installment in the franchise, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games had promise but ultimately I was let down by just how dull this game was. Despite this I still wanted to have hope that Sega and Nintendo could do the Winter Olympics justice and deliver a great game, and so I stepped out into the cold once more looking for hope.
In playing Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter games did I find that hope? To be perfectly honest I never did, I admit this installment has a couple of fun ideas but this never really overshadowed the fact that most of this game is honestly dull. There are a few moments of pleasure in this game that do offer occasional redeeming qualities, but overall I am led to believe that I am simply playing a game that was released for the Wii and I already didn’t like.
That is probably the biggest factor that truly affects this return to the Winter Olympics, while this game does include a few new ideas and events overall this feels like a complete rehash of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games and that is not good. Where London 2012 stepped up and evolved upon the basic formula of the first game, Sochi 2014 feels like they may as well have simply upped the games graphics, and simply gave us the equivalent of a FIFA release.
Sadly, this is a game I tried to like, I did try to distance my thoughts from the original game but honestly found this difficult. I had hoped that perhaps a control overhaul and a new system could breathe life into this dying franchise, but unfortunately I was wrong.
For all intents and purposes I actually have no issue with the controls, the game uses all the Wii U’s major control options throughout the varying events. The Gamepad sees use for its motion controls to add a certain level of player connection to specific events, as well as cleverly show multiple angles at times. The game also uses the Wii Remote, which is actually the main control option for the game, and this is improved by the use of the Wii Remote Plus which makes the game much easier to control than ever before. If anything the control options for the most part actually improves the game, it certainly steps up from Mario and Sonic’s last winter options.
Instead, Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games falls victim to a different issue, the game just isn’t fun except for in a hand full of events. This is the biggest issue and this is because Mario and Sonic lives and dies in its events, this is the main thing that you come to these games for, and honestly I just didn’t exactly find much that I wanted to really do again.
In terms of what Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games offers, you have eighteen different events to compete in, ten of these are traditional Winter Olympic events, while the other eight are the more out there Dream Events. In regards to the games events, they really are a mixed bag with some ultimately being pretty interesting and enjoyable to an extent, while others are simply tiresome.
The ten standard Olympic Events are really a mixed bag, much like in the original game (in which we have already played most of these events) many of the events only ever really warrant a single playthrough before they become tiresome, and personally I found even then to be a struggle. Major Winter Olympic events such as Skiing, Snowboarding and even Bobsleigh are not all that fun, the latter may have a sort of immersion thanks to the Gamepad but this never helps, all these events feel relatively the same and more like up-scaled versions of something that was already tired just with better controls.
The biggest problem I have with these three events is the sheer lack of life in the design of the courses, and the fact that there is only ever one course to compete on. Perhaps things could have been better if only there was a few variations, but unfortunately there is not and this really makes the already tired activities feel forced.
But I will admit things are not all bad in the actual Olympic events, there are a handful of events that were fun for short bursts and I found were playable a few times over. Despite the real life complexities I found the dumbed down Figure Skating event to be quite charming, this event is never too difficult and is great for something to jump into for five minutes. In full honesty this event is probably my personal favorite, it is actually the one that I could bare to play numerous times over without getting bored.
There is also Curling and Ice Hockey which were surprisingly enjoyable, Ice Hockey is one of the rare events in the first game that I actually liked and it has been carried over here wonderfully. The matches are quick and over in minutes, but this just made it easier to keep playing, and there is certainly a lot of fun for many people in this event. Curling on the other hand is an odd ball, I never found myself having fun with this event, it was more that I enjoyed the games more strategic approach. In this event you could use the Gamepad to draw a strategy for your team which was a nice touch and added something to the event, it never helped me play better, in fact I was pretty awful but the strategic element just added something the game desperately needed.
The Dream Events are often some of the best parts of these games, I feel like it is usually these events for their more distinct style and unrealistic take on typical events that are the things we come to these games for. This was my hope after going through the mostly less than satisfying Winter Olympic events, and personally while I enjoyed the Mario and Sonic charm of these events I was overall disappointed with this games options.
That is not to say there are not some interesting ideas here, as I said these events have charm but for the most part this is short lived and I never really found anything that I would honestly want to do more than a handful of times. But interesting is still the word to describe these events, the ideas are really clever and make great use of the Mario and Sonic license, a particularly noteworthy event is the Figure Skating Spectacular which has you and three other people perform a figure skating routine through a Mario or Sonic themed stage, this even ends with a messed up boss battle. There is even an interesting racing event that has you racing in a sleigh pulled by Bullet Bill’s, and this was pretty unique, the thrill however for this event quickly tires. The same can be said for the games dream take on Curling with Hole in One Curling that has you playing a sort of cross between golf and curling.
The unfortunate part is that these events are not really all that fun and have no lasting appeal once the charm of the games design wears off, added to this issue is the regular complaint from the standard events which is the lack of courses, most of these events are a single course and there is little appeal. Dream Events that are usually the salvation of the game just don’t cut it within this game and just don’t offer enough long lasting enjoyment to really be worth playing for extended periods.
However this does fall as more of a single player opinion, and things do get better when you add more people through local multiplayer. My issues with most of these events stay true but other players can help to make some of these events fun, this is where some of the Dream Events and even some of the lesser Olympic Events shine. However I still felt most of these events will not hold a long standing sense of enjoyment for people even with friends, and admittedly part of this is due to controller inconsistencies.
There are certain events in this game that use the Gamepad, and in some of these events you can have multiple people competing at once. This really felt uneven to me, as we could not all use the Gamepad often the other players will have to use a Wii Remote Plus for their part, this does not provide the same feel as the Gamepad, and while it is only a simple thing it just never made the game feel balanced to me. In this case they should have made all players use the Wii Remote Plus so that everyone is on even ground, there is even a handful of events where I noticed the Gamepad had a clear advantage. This just didn’t feel right to me, and this is part of what will hinder people with the events and really throw off the multiplayer.
Outside of the basic events the game does offer a handful of other modes, and unfortunately none of these really improve the experience. Legends Showdown is essentially the games main campaign mode, in this mode you have to beat shadow versions of your character in a series of events. This mode forces you into many of the games events and forces you to win in order to proceed, for certain events you are not good at this can mean you are spending hours trying to win. This mode actually had potential to be good but is actually hurt more by the game’s events, which as I have said countless times most of these are not very good and I was bored trying to beat these opponents.
Another mode I had a lot of hope for was the Action & Answer Tour, in this mode you compete in a sort of game show mixing in small snippets of major events. This made it so you would have to do events such as Skiing and Snowboarding, but there was a twist you had to pay close attention to a certain aspect of the event. You would be challenged to answer a question based on something that happened during the event, these were things such as how many spinies Lukita threw, or which number was scratched out on a card. This mode luckily was actually not that bad, most of the mode is slow paced and I felt there was more commentary then actual gameplay, but for some of these events this was the only time I had fun because I had something else to do. Of course this won’t be for everybody, but it does contain a certain level of enjoyment and satisfaction if you are observant enough.
Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games repeats the mistakes of the 2010 game and fails to provide much that is actually fun, in truth this game feels like it was something of a remaster of the older game receiving a new event or two and a graphical overhaul. I admit I hoped this game could be fun, I hoped that they would fix the problems of the past and deliver a quality experience, and there is small signs of hope here, but this game is honestly just average and one Olympic Games you should skip. Let’s hope the obligatory 2018 game improves and delivers a more quality experience.