It's that time again - the Vancouver Winter Olympics are just around the corner, and Sega is commemorating the event with a follow-up to its popular cross-brand Olympic franchise. Ever wondered who would win in a fight between Mario and Sonic? Well, you won't find the answer in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, but instead you'll have the opportunity to resolve those burning questions about which mascot is packing the fancier figure skating moves. We met up with Sega to learn all about how these iconic characters spend their snow days.
Why not take a page out of Tonya Harding's book? I'm looking at you, Eggman.
A predictable roster of familiar characters will be making the transition from the summer to winter games, so if you had a favorite track and field star last year, you'll now have a chance to see how he or she fares on the slopes. There are a couple notable additions this time around, though, including Donkey Kong (who had previously tested positive for performance-enhancing bananas) and Metal Sonic. Putting aside any ethical quandaries regarding the inclusion of animals and robots in the Olympic games, this was a fun surprise. It's nice to see one of Sega's cooler villains get some more face time, even if this isn't his best element.
We got to check out a handful of new events via live developer demo, with some looking better than others. Figure skating was up first and stuck out as one of the more interesting game modes. It controls something like a rhythm game, with the player swinging the Wii remote in time with one of six songs. The character skates a circuit on-screen, occasionally moving over visual prompts that, after the player traces the appropriate gesture, will execute a special move. Depending on the selected song, the difficulty and available moves will scale accordingly. At the end of the event you'll get to dazzle the crowd with a finishing pose and watch the points roll in. What was shown looked solid in execution, but some outside interference could have mixed things up a bit. Why not take a page out of Tonya Harding's book? I'm looking at you, Eggman.
The principal bad guys aren't going completely lax in their advanced age, though. Exclusive to the Nintendo DS version of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is a new mode called Adventure Tours in which Bowser and Dr. Eggman have joined forces, leaving it up to Mario and Sonic to put an end to their latest scheme by completing missions and solving puzzles. We weren't given many details, but, notably, this will be the first time that Nintendo and Sega characters appear on screen talking and working together. While it's an exciting prospect, it's almost too bad that this occasion was relegated to a side mode in what is essentially a mini game compilation.
Which brings me to my primary reservation: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is obviously very family-oriented, and while it should do a great job keeping casual and younger players entertained, its events may lack the depth to hold the interest of more seasoned gamers. Ice Hockey and Dream Ski Cross looked like good fun, but put up against games like Sega Soccer Slam and Mario Kart Wii respectively, they may be revealed as far too simplistic. Its strength, then, is in its wide variety of gameplay implementations. Similarly, a stroll through Costco can net a whole lot of taste tests, but for some of us that's no replacement for a good steak dinner.