The mix that needs more of a mix.
Mario. The name everyone knows without asking who that is. The character, which has a habit for jumping and repeatedly saving women in distress (well, just one really), has appeared in numerous titles over the past 20 years. Over time, Mario has become similar to comfort food. Whenever you pick up a Mario game, you know you’ll have a great time playing it, but this time around, Mario has become too comfortable.
[image1]Mario Sports Mix is a small mix of four different game types: basketball, hockey, volleyball, and dodgeball. All four are played exactly how they are known to be played, except they have been tweaked just a bit. There are hints and markers which guide you along the way. In volleyball, a spot on the ground is highlighted with a circle to inform players where the ball is expected to land. In dodgeball, arrows flash a couple of times toward the person that an opposing player is aiming for. These are helpful considering the camera angle doesn’t give much of a view, but some players will find that the hints make the game too easy.
Panels pop up throughout matches in every sport offering players a chance to make an epic comeback if they fall behind. Stepping on panels either provides coins or items. Coins add to the points you earn from successfully scoring, while items - such as green or red shells and mushrooms - are used to throw at opposing players, which causes them to drop the ball or be dazed momentarily.
There are roughly 13 different stages to play on, which are all interactive in their own way. In DK Dock for instance, the platforms move away from the hoop in basketball, so perfect timing is required in order to score; otherwise, you’ll take a quick dip into the water below. Ghosts randomly appear in Luigi’s mansion, often blocking you from scoring and water invades the court from crashing incoming waves on Koopa Troopa Beach, bringing in green shells for you to pick up. While there are a number of stages to play on and panels which can lead to unpredictable moments, don’t expect to be entertained for very long.
[image2]Between the four sports, the control scheme is generally the same for each. You can choose between using a Wii Remote with a Nunchuk or using the Wii Remote without one. The difference is unfortunately clear. Solely using the Wii Remote forces your thumb to leave the D-Pad to push the A button, which means your player stops moving in order to throw an item at the opposition, leaving the player vulnerable. Using the Nunchuk, however, provides more of a comfortable grip, since every button you need is in close distance to your hand.
The control is not as big of a concern as the gameplay is. For the first five minutes, playing any sport has its entertaining moments: you check people in hockey (even breaking out into a fight at times), perform fake outs in dodgeball, and spike a ball with crushing force in volleyball. All this is great, except the game becomes quickly repetitive. Between the game clocks, switching sides, and playing three rounds in a tournament, these matches take too long to the point that the repetition becomes easily noticeable. There isn’t much to unlock except more stages, increasing difficulties, and a couple of characters.
All is not completely lost. Playing with or against your friends either online or offline is worth trying out. Up to four players can play 2-on-2 or 3-on-1 in exhibition matches, and three players can play cooperatively in tournaments. There is also Party Mode which features four simple minigames that are objective-based, the best of which is Feed Petey. You jump up to collect fruit, worth a different amount of points, hanging from the ceiling and then throw them into Petey’s mouth. You also have the option to block your opposition just like if you were playing basketball. These mini-objective games are a nice addition, but it also emphasizes what the game is lacking, which is more game types overall.
Mario Sports Mix is, at the very least, a fun family game, but there are other titles which include so much more to the franchise that it makes this game seem incomplete. The concept is great, but the fact that this title doesn’t set itself apart from other sport-themed games is dissatisfying, especially since it involves one of the most beloved characters in video game history. Although Mario Sports Mix may seem appealing to the eye, this is one Mario title which doesn't glow with the happiness that Mario is all about.