(Wii)

Game Review

Mario Sports Mix Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Laurie Blake

Square Enix mixes it up with Mario, but is it any good?

Mario is one of those annoying people who seems to be good at whatever he turns his hand to: not satisfied with merely being a tennis champion, golf champion, kart racing champion and constant saviour of the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario is trying out four new sports in Mario Sports Mix for Wii and we’re betting he’s going to be good at those too.

Development duties have landed firmly in the laps of the RPG-machines at Square Enix and they’ve offered up an interesting platter of sports: dodgeball, basketball, hockey and volleyball are all in the mix, and what's on offer more than suffices.

At the top of the game you’re faced with a few options: you can either choose one of the four disciplines for an exhibition game or the tournament mode; you can hop online and compete against friends and strangers alike; or you can try the paltry party mode minigames for a little bit of jocular sporting action.

Before an exhibition match or dipping into tournament mode you decide whether you want a two-on-two or three-on-three event. Lone players may want the extra backup two CPU characters provide, while a pair of humans may want to go it alone without the computer stealing their glory. Twelve denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom have donned their sports gear all hoping not to be picked last, including the lanky spinoff shyster Waluigi. Characters are classed as either speedy, powerful, technical or all-rounders, which dictates their stats and abilities.

Anyone who’s ever played a Mario sports title before will be familiar with the set-up; however, the activities here don’t quite match up to Mario’s tennis and golf outings in terms of depth.

Basketball is the obvious champion, as Square Enix’s previous work on Mario Hoops 3-on-3 gave it a strong foundation to build on. The aim is to score as many buckets over the course of two three-minute periods through a combination of dunks, alley-oops, lay-ups and monster three pointers. It’s fast, frenetic fun and combining with your teammates for awesome dunk combos is incredibly satisfying.

Hockey is played on both ice and tarmac, but it provides little more than a change in shoes, as the physics remain the same. Charge shots and body checks make hockey a far more physical game than the others, and in a rare move towards realism Square Enix even threw in some fighting. With all the violence being completely legal it takes some deft manoeuvring to make enough space to ready a charge shot.

The aim of the dodgeball game is to dodge, duck, dip, dive and… dodge incoming balls from your opponents and hit them with return fire to deplete their life bar, knocking them out of the game. The first team to eliminate the other team wins the set; take two sets and you win the match.

With only one ball in the mix things can get quite slow, and sometimes in three-on-three games you’ll get in a muddle with the character control – unlike most sports titles you won’t automatically switch to the player with the ball. Switching requires a button press and the game does a half-hearted job of assigning you to the appropriate player, a fact that’ll annoy control freaks, especially when the computer’s taking aim at your players.

Volleyball is a bit of lame duck – even though everything works, it just feels limp. Matches are broken into sets, first to 15 takes the set and winning two sets wins the game. There’s not a whole lot of depth or shot variety on offer and games quickly fall into a pattern of the same spike to the same spot – it feels a bit like an overly long Mario Party minigame and you’ll find yourself tiring around the seven-point mark.

Control for all four sports is universally simple; with the Remote and Nunchuk pressing A will pass, tackle and set-up combos, while you can shoot, dunk, throw and spike with flicks of the Remote. The fact that the motion controls have been kept simple will keep you from developing a bad case of Wii Sports tennis elbow.

If you think it’s all sounding a bit simple so far fear not, the trademark Mario twist has been added to all the games. The normal arsenal of shells, stars and bob-ombs are at your disposal to lob in the enemy's direction or to modify your shots and throws, making them damage anyone foolish enough to get in their way. Running over ‘?’ blocks will either give you an item or a coin; any collected coins are added to your total when you successfully score, so prudent collectors can get back into the game even after a scoring dry spell. Taking a direct hit from any stray shells or the like causes you to spill your gold and gives rivals a chance to hoover it up and cash it in themselves. There are even power shots like Mario’s fireball that almost guarantee scoring, providing your aim is true.

The pitches have received the Mario treatment too, and are littered with traps, treadmills and even travelling trains. The same pitches are used for multiple sports, but repurposed to be more befitting. Take DK Dock for instance: in a basketball match the flooring will shift, leaving a gap below the basket that forces you to shoot for three pointers or risk missing a dunk and hitting the drink below. In dodgeball the moving floor is used to hem your team into a smaller area making you sitting ducks for short periods. There are some missteps, like levels with built-in score multipliers that allow for the cheapest comebacks known to man, but on the whole the design is imaginative, engaging and visually pleasing, with some excellent background music to boot.

Tournaments for each sport are split into three cups: Mushroom, Flower and Star, and you can tackle them alone or with a friend. In a nice touch the tournament roster is laid out like a world map from Mario’s platforming romps. With only three matches per cup and a low level of difficulty winning each trophy is a bit of a breeze, so you may want to crank up the difficulty from the off to avoid the tedium of constant walkovers. Once you’ve pocketed the trophy you’re encouraged to go back and play through again to uncover alternate routes through the tournament. These new paths offer up challenge based matches, plus the chance to unlock new stages and some famous faces from Square Enix’s roster, although unfortunately you have to unlock everything for each sport separately, which slightly spoils the magic the third or fourth time.

Beating all four tournaments lets you go on to face an utterly needless but nonetheless awesome boss encounter that we won’t spoil for you, suffice to say it’ll have you grinning like a buffoon.

While the tournament is all well and good you’ll get the biggest kicks and the most challenge by competing with your friends. Sports Mix really shines when it’s whipped up a healthy level of competition in four people who should really know better. Matches can easily turn into tit for tat and the scores can get preposterous at times, but crack this game out at gatherings and it’ll bring out the fun loving hooligan in anyone.

Conclusion

While Mario Sports Mix may lack the depth of Mario Tennis and Golf, it’s a great example of a more casual Mario title that multiple players can enjoy. Not all the disciplines on offer will be to everyone’s taste, but there’s enough good stuff here to last you a fair while and Square Enix have given it oodles of imagination.

Be sure to check out our Mario Sports Mix competition where you could grab a copy of this sporting extravaganza!

More Stories

Game Trailer

Mario gets taken to court (and other sporty puns) in Mario Sports Mix, out now on Nintendo Wii all over the world. More information at Ninten

User Comments (47)

Big_A2

#1

Big_A2 said:

I was a big fan of the Mario Sports games on GameCube when I was younger, so this is definatly on my list.

SPOILER ALERT: You can play as the Slime from Dragon Quest. I'm so buying this game right now.

zeeroid

#2

zeeroid said:

I will likely pick this up at a more affordable price. Something in the vicinity of $30 should suffice.

DeaDz

#4

DeaDz said:

Good review, Ive got this pre ordered so it'll be a day 1 pickup for me, I have always liked the Mario sports games.

Portista

#5

Portista said:

Well i guess it's OK. I was thinking it was going to be a 7/10, but 8/10 is not to bad. Three cheers for Nintendo!

Phobos

#6

Phobos said:

Wow, this game looks neat. Gameplay looks great too. Not picking this up, but still, nice game. Good review, by the way.

Aviator

#7

Aviator said:

"The aim of the dodgeball game is to dodge, duck, dip, dive and… dodge"
I love you so much right now.

NintyMan

#8

NintyMan said:

This game does look like fun. Now I feel curious about who this "final boss" is. The arenas look varied and the music sounded good, so this game will likely be on my birthday list.

Sakura_Moonlight2421

#10

Sakura_Moonlight2421 said:

Is still debating on whether or not to get this. :/ I wasn't too fond of the sport aspects. Maybe I'll give this one a chance.

TheBaconator

#11

TheBaconator said:

I would've liked to see more Mario characters than those unlockable Square characters, but I guess that doesn't matter if the game is good.

nicknintendo68

#13

nicknintendo68 said:

mario sports games are either good or awesome(mario kart is thats a sport lol) or just okay(mario tennis wii make game) i might pick it up if i dont win the contest

KaiserGX

#14

KaiserGX said:

^^^ You ain't fond of the Sports aspects in a sports game? Well there's the credits you will get a kick out of.

KaiserGX

#15

KaiserGX said:

Mario Kart isn't really a Mario Sport game. It can be considered a Sport but Mario Kart is made by EAD. Mario Sports games are usually made by 2/3rd party.

Big_A2

#16

Big_A2 said:

No, Mario Kart created a whole genre of kart racing games, it isn't a sports game. Personally, I've never considered car racing a sport anyway.

nicknintendo68

#17

nicknintendo68 said:

oh ok lol i fail XD well i like some sports on sports games like archery,and it has dodgeball on this game so ya if i can spend some money before 3ds time ill get it :P.i enjoyed wii sports resort as well but i just dont like the major sports games like baseball,hockey and football!

PSICOffee

#21

PSICOffee said:

I didn't particularly like Mario Hoops 1 VS 3 on the DS (yes, your teammates do NOTHING). While that was fun for just playing to mess around, actually trying to get anywhere to unlock things is frustratingly difficult by the controls and AI (problems that also vastly affected Mario Kart Wii). So I think I'll skip this like the rest of the Mario sports games lately.

Good to get the rest of the sports out of the way in one big package.

cyrus_zuo

#22

cyrus_zuo said:

I played through Mario Hoops 3v3 on the DS one evening. It was incredibly short, but I really enjoyed my 3-4 hours I spent with the game and bought it for my brother for his birthday.

Due to that I'm looking forward to this one, but I don't buy anything but Mario Kart or Zelda at full retail price. Will watch for a sale and get it at ~$30 (maybe this Christmas it will be available at that price if not sooner on sale somewhere).

LEGEND_MARIOID

#23

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

ONM only gave this a 72% saying the single player mode was so easy it was hugely unsatisfying. That is what N-Gamer said too, who gave it a 66%. Still, that doesn't constitute a bad game. Nintendo Power and, most importantly, NL have given it a 8/10...so it'll probably be a purchase for moi.

WaveWarlock

#24

WaveWarlock said:

Bah, I'll be passing. I'm a little Anti-sports if you know what I mean. :p
Wii Sports Resort was pretty darn good though.

Punny

#25

Punny said:

I'm still unsure if this is my cup of tea or not, but it certainly sounds interesting! :)

Z_Bone

#27

Z_Bone said:

"it feels a bit like an overly long Mario Party minigame"

There actually was a Volleyball game just like this in Mario Party 5 as a bonus game.

The fact that there is only one ball in dodgeball is laughable. The snowball fight minigame from Mario Party 6 is probably 10 times better than this dodgeball game.

TKOWL

#29

TKOWL said:

Mario Superstar Baseball is still the best Mario Sports-game to date; though I did like Mario Hoops 3-on-3 for DS, so this game might be worth a rental.

Vinsanity

#31

Vinsanity said:

I wonder which game has better hockey; Mario Sports Mix or Mario & Sonic's Winter Olympic Games? 'Cuz Sonic's game is plenty fun already.I'd like to hear a review that remembered that game, and compared those two as such.

BulbasaurusRex

#32

BulbasaurusRex said:

If I don't win the contest, I'll wait for a good used price before I get it, as I've got to get Sonic Colors, Conduit 2, Pokémon White, a 3DS, and a couple of 3DS games as well as more Nintendo Points before I bother looking for this. I may have my Election Judge money from last November saved to help buy my 3DS, but I only have so much money and so much free time to play my games.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#33

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

They should've bundled more games in with this tbh and made it a special edition super mix. Europeans should've got Mario Super Sluggers with this game. They might as well then have added NPC Mario Power Tennis and Mario Strikers as not all Wii owners have played those. Would've been a compilation package really worth owning even if the price was a little higher

NESGuy1996

#36

NESGuy1996 said:

Looks nice! I typically don't go for the spin-off titles of the Super Mario franchise, but this is one that I'll give a run for its money in the near future.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#37

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Good game. Some design flaws and its quite shallow;,
but great presentation and charm as well as good in multiplayer. 7 or 7.5/10 not really an 8/10 tbh

Supremeist

#38

Supremeist said:

This looks really good. I never thought I'd see a sports styled game with Mario characters in it. Good stuff.

SuperMarioKenny

#39

SuperMarioKenny said:

I love this game so far, I wanna play this with my bro some time. I didn't play the Party Games yet though, so I'll be willing to give them a shot too. :)

rjejr

#40

rjejr said:

From the conclusion:

"it’s a great example of a more casual Mario title"

The part where it says "casual" is what makes me and others think it would be better at a $30 price point, not $50. I've hardly put any time at all into Wii Party so this can wait, as others have said, to a sale, maybe next Christmas.

Tediz64

#43

Tediz64 said:

Thinkin about gettin the game.... but they should of added sora and roxas to this....it would make me happy

Poketendo

#46

Poketendo said:

Looks OK. But isn't this something like Mario & Sonic at the Olympic (winter) games? Because i've already got those 2 for the DS. And I've also got New Play Control: Mario Power Tennis. I'm not sure or this is the best choise for me, but it looks like a great game!

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