Mario Sports Mix Review
See PixlBit's Review Policies
On 03/18/2011 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola
Multiple anything in a single game never seems to go well.
Only for those who have a bunch of friends to consistently play with. Otherwise you’re going to grow tired of this one quickly.
No matter your preference for sports games, I think it’s safe to say that the Mario Sports line has some universal appeal that just about anyone can love. Starting with Mario Tennis, straight up to Mario Baseball, each and every game has been well-polished, deep, and immensely enjoyable for long periods of time. Mario Sports Mix, the latest in the Mario Sports line, does not live up to this pedigree in the least. Much more akin to mini-games from the Mario Party series, Mario Sports Mix stuffs four half-baked sports games into one.
Dodgeball, Volleyball, Basketball, and Hockey comprise the package, with each providing similar style gameplay across the disparate sports. At first this is almost hard to comprehend, but as previously stated, each game plays almost like a Mario Party mini-game. The controls have been completely standardized across all of the sports and the unique rules, like coin collecting for extra points and special powers and in-game items to disrupt opposing players are the same in each sport.
What this ultimately means is that there are no true nuances to add depth to the experiences. In nearly all of the other Mario Sports titles, players would have to learn each and every character, some special controls that would improve performance, and gain a general mastery of the game. Mario Sports Mix completely evens the playing field, giving players nothing to master or improve at, which makes for a very hollow and disposable experience.
Furthermore, while each sport is very similar and standardized, each operates as its own separate bucket. Under each sport, players have access to Exhibition and Tournament modes. Playing in tournaments unlocks the hidden characters in the game, but competing in each sport’s Tournament mode is necessary to unlock the characters in each particular sport. Now, instead of player unlocking being a fun and redeeming challenge, it’s a complete drag on the experience and a necessary evil to get a full roster when playing with friends.
Worse, computer players are as dumb as rocks. With the difficulty totally cranked up in a particular Hockey match I was playing, I was able to consistently steal the puck, skate up to the goal, and put the puck in without any contest. About half way through the match, I had to feed my son, so I put the controller down, and let the game play out till the end. Without my interaction, the computer players managed to score one goal for my team, while the opposition only managed to put up four or five points… seriously. Let me tell you, it made a real dent in my 25-point lead.
Each sport offers up 2v2 or 3v3 matches, and despite their similarities, each sport offers a different level of entertainment. From my experience, both Basketball and Hockey are the most interesting of the four sports. They are fast moving and both allow constant player interaction. On offense, players will try and navigate around defenders to make their way to the goal and on defense; players will try and regain control of the puck/ball. The problem here – both are pretty similar games in concept to begin with, in their implementation here, they are almost identical.
Dodgeball and Volleyball are both pretty boring, with Volleyball being the worse of the two. Dodgeball at least allows players to formulate a strategy, fake out the opposition, and work together with team mates to dominate the game. Volleyball feels almost automatic in its execution. After playing Beach Spikers on the GameCube many years ago, it’s obvious what a Volleyball game should be like, and the Volleyball mode here doesn’t even come close to matching up with that experience. No matter the situation, it’s almost impossible to flub your intended action, and there’s some limited scope of where exactly you can send the ball to defeat a competent player. As you might expect, matches quickly devolve into item battles and coin collectathons to gain an edge on your human opposition.
Because computer players are so worthless in this game, its only redeeming characteristic is that it offers up-to-four player multiplayer both on and offline. While the sports aren’t terribly interesting, Basketball and Hockey with four players can be quite enjoyable, even if it doesn’t offer the depth or skill other Mario Sports games have provided.
If you are in a college setting, or have a household with lots of game playing members, Mario Sports Mix is a decent enough investment, as it offers four sports to play with others. Those who don’t have friends to play with locally, the available online mode is as barebones as the single player mode is, so there’s not much to delve into aside from some lifeless matches with faceless opponents. Without the ability to converse with your adversaries, or more accurately, smack talk, over Wii Speak, the game feels just as lifeless and dull as it does in single player; here your opponents are just more formidable.
For me, Mario Sports Mix is not so much of a disappointment because I didn’t expect much from it after playing it at E3. Given Square Enix’s pedigree of Mario Hoops 3-on-3, the quality found here is not surprising either. However, Mario Sports titles have always provided memorable experiences, so to see the latest fall flat is a bit of a letdown. Hopefully Nintendo doesn’t take this route again with future entries in the pseudo-series.