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Overall does not disappoint, but is flawed in lack of provision for lefties
on November 19, 2007
We are a two adult, no children household. We look for Wii games that are suitable for many players (we like to have friends over to play), and that are very engaging, and fun. We don't like war/shooter games or games that are too juvenile. We also try to find games that are structured around the unique Wii experience. (Ie, we don't buy racing games and others that require you to use the Wiimote like a traditional controller--we'd use a traditional system for that!)
We're a big fan of the Wii Mario games so with that and our other game criteria in mind, we purchased Mario and Sonic at the Olympics.
The basic premise of the game is that you select a character to compete against either other people or AI characters in various Olympic events. You have your choice of 8 classic Mario characters, 8 Sonic characters, or anyone from your Mii Village. Each character has different strengths and weaknesses, though what those precisely are is revealed only through game play. Out of the box, you know which characters are generally more speedy, powerful, skilled, or all around talented.
The events include several variations meter dashes and relays, long, triple and high jumps, swimming races and relays, trampoline and vault activities, skeet shooting, rowing, archery, fencing, hammer and javelin throws, and table tennis. All of the activities are not immediately available for play but become unlocked through game play and success. I can't give more specifics because we've not yet successfully unlocked any games. Some of the activities like the trampoline and triple jump require precise control and timing and other activities like running and swimming are larger, more generic movements.
There is also something called "Dream Events" that are awarded on a merit basis but we've not yet unlocked them so I don't know what they are. The game does allow for 4 separate saved profiles so you can save your progress as you work through the game. Additionally, you can constantly vary the type of game and number of players within 1 profile, which is nice.
Straight out of the box, the unlocked activities are: Trampoline, Javelin Throw, Fencing, Hammer Throw, Long Jump, Triple Jump, 100m Dash, 110m Hurdles, 100m Freestyle and 4x100m Freestyle Swimming, Skeet Shooting and Table Tennis.
The game has several modes of play. Single Event mode allows 1-4 players to compete in any of the unlocked events.
Circuit Mode allows 1-4 people to compete in one of 4 circuits, each containing 3 preselected events. Alternately, you can select "Free Circuit" and choose the events yourself. 8 players play each round so anywhere from 1-7 spots are filled by AI COM players. The way events are scored varies by event. You are ranked according to the performance in the event and then each rank is assigned a numeric point value. The highest point total wins the circuit.
Mission Mode is for 1 player only. Each avatar character is eligible for different challenges, which are specific goals within a single event. For example, Yoshi's swimming challenge is to complete the 100m Freestyle in 48-52 seconds. Each character has different challenges. Clearing all the missions for all characters results in a prize--so far, I don't know what that is.
Gallery Mode is a mode for mini game play that unlocks Olympic trivia. We have not yet played this mode so I have no further comment.
So far, we've played it one time for a couple of hours. We played in Circuit Mode, on the Beginner setting, with 2 players. I've also played a few individual rounds and we've tried about 5 different challenge rounds.
A lot of the mini games are still locked so we have not played all of them. So this review is based on the 12 or so mini games that are available out of the box.
First, we enjoyed the game. We found it interactive (with each other), challenging, and fun. Some of the activities require quite a lot of steps and coordination so I enjoyed that even as an adult, I was challenged. I think some of the activities would be too difficult for children and others would be just fine. There is a handicap setting that I suppose you could adjust for children. Our favorite events are swimming and the trampoline.
The graphics are better than any other Wii game we currently own or have seen. However, this comes at a price. The time to reload between rounds or between circuits is 5-10 seconds long. The graphics are not competitive with other systems that specialize more in graphics, but they're great in comparison to other Wii games. Characters have full bodies and move fluidly than in previous games. Backgrounds are detailed and complex. Attention has been paid to detail such as reflections, shadows, sparks under feet to indicate speed, skids, etc. We haven't noticed any problem with pixelization or fuzziness.
The sound is clear. A human voice welcomes the player to the Olympics. Each player makes its own character-specific sounds and utterances in response to success, failure and exertion. The accompanying music is clear and appropriate for the Olympic theme.
We also noticed that Nintendo did a better job of programming when it comes to panning and keeping up with the avatar movement. With Wii Sports and Wii play, we noticed that sometimes, especially in a game like tennis, the ball would go off the side of the screen and the "pan" feature wouldn't catch up in time to actually return the ball so the play would be dead before the camera ever moved over to where the ball was. That was markedly improved in the sports in this game, leading to much less frustration!
This game experienced is enhanced if you have the nun-chucks. All of the games have an option to play without a nun-chuck so they are not "required" but some of the movements such as swimming and fencing have more options with the nun-chuck (ie different swimming strokes, etc). We found ourselves always opting to use the nun-chucks because of the expanded capacity.
This game truly does use the Wii as it was designed to be used. None of the games are played by using the Wiimote as a traditional controller (unless you don't have a nun-chucks). The Wiimotes are used to run, jump, throw, lunge, swing, swim (6 different strokes, each performed by using the Wiimotes a different way), twist and clap, depending on the event. Moves are executed through a precise sequence of Wiimote manipulation. For example, dog paddling in swimming is performed by holding the wiimote in one hand and the nunchuck in the other and shaking them alternately, up and down horizontally. On the trampoline, you shake the Wiimote up to jump, and then press A, B and/or twist the Wiimote to perform different twists and flips. The precise sequence for each game varies in both actual execution and complexity.
One significant oversight on the part of Nintendo is the failure to include an option to set a player as left handed. My husband is left-handed and in the games where the movement was conducted with both the Wiimote and the nun-chuck simultaneously in a specific sequence, he found himself handicapped because he was not able to use his dominant hand for the dominant movement. He still enjoyed and was able to play the game, but did find that aspect frustrating and disappointing.
This is a great game for multiple players. A lot of the mini games are played in "Party Mode" with all of the players playing simultaneously. I especially liked that in some of the games, Nintendo did not split the screen and all players play on the full screen simultaneously. Other activities have more down time as you wait for each person to play the round individually but the down time was really only too long in one circuit that had two championship structured games. The other games in other circuits were short enough that no one was bored for too long watching the others play.
One significant improvement is the ability to skip through the extra animations, replays, computer movements, etc. One thing I've always hated about Mario Party 8 is the amount of down time as you listen to the narrator, watch the AIs move, etc. This game allows you to skip through all narration and replays, and there is no watching of the AIs at all so there is a lot less down time overall.
Some of the instructions before each mini game we found to be either confusing, incomplete, or both but in most of the games we found we picked it up easily enough. One thing we noticed was the absence of a "practice" feature that some other Wii/Mario games have. We would have appreciated that but again, we were able to pick up the games easily enough, without. One thing that is NOT clearly explained is that in the swimming relay, you swim for all 4 teammates, even though your Avatar is only one of them and the others are characters that are played by AI through the entire rest of the game.
Overall, I think we will enjoy the game. The minor annoyances are offset by the general enjoyment this game evoked and the quality of the activities and challenges. It thus far is a game that appears to have a lot of game play. One game of playing through all 4 circuits on Beginner took us about an hour and a half and we didn't unlock anything so we will need to try again. So I am confident that there are many hours of play in this game before the game is beat or all levels are exhausted. If the game had a provision for left handers, I'd give this a 4.5 or 5 stars, but overall, we're happy with our purchase, even at the 4 star rating.