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Popular franchise characters provide a great physical workout and deep multiplayer experience with a variety of familiar events.

Nintendo Wii Review: Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games

It’s never too early to get Olympic fever and these solid video game archetypes which provides a great physical workout with a fun variety of familiar events. This familiar multi event format have Nintendo and SEGA joining forces – not that either franchise is at the bottom of the popularity list, but for the competition.

Players can really get their arms pumping using the Wii Remote or Remote and Nunchuk as they go for the gold, silver or bronze. Thankfully, the low stress Wii controls take the button mashing fatigue that has plagued mediocre Olympic themed games for years. Players can get advantages from a few button mashing techniques like repeating the B button when on the running blocks before your release. As players improve on each action, game producers predictably award them with various bonuses and unlockables, but you get so much pure joy and satisfaction in playing that the bonuses seem like icing on the cake. The statistics are deep; the crowd noise gets you going and there’s a wide variety of characters and events to choose from.

Mario and Luigi are well-rounded players while Sonic and Shadow obviously have the speed advantage. Other characters have strengths in power (Bowser, Knuckles, Wario and Vector) and skill (Dr. Eggman, Waluigi, Peach and Tails). One of the best innovations was getting to see my Mii (selectable at the bottom right of the character menu), in full body graphics, alive and kicking in events!

Players choose events from a nine block grid of athletics, gymnastics, shooting, aquatics, fencing and table tennis (rowing, archery and the bonus “dream events” appear as you progress). Individual events include fencing, long jump, pole vault, trampoline, vault and single table tennis. Other sports like weightlifting would’ve been cute, but might not get the juices flowing as much as the other physically active pursuits.

Game modes include the self-explanatory single match (one to four players participate in eight sports with 20 events) and circuit modes (you can choose your event line-up) in competitive or co-operative play. The circuit includes beginner’s, advanced or master’s classes and the points system adds a high risk, high reward element to your exploits. It includes a bonus system where you can take a gamble to double your points if you medal in that given event. The single player advantage in the circuit mode is special trophy awards, which you must achieve without choosing your events.

The mission mode has a large cache of quests to conquer, which have a fair difficulty level and can double as a practice mode. The gallery mode features unlockable Olympic-related trivia. Producers put on their public relations hats to give players the total Olympic experience in past, future and present. Players can also unlock extra music and access their records/item caches for everyone to see. The deep statistic tracking also enhances the gameplay (e.g. bonuses for longer timed volleys in table tennis) as you earn achievements for breaking records or winning specific events under certain circumstances. Want to display your efforts? Register in the world rankings to put your results in the online leaderboards, which allow new world records (obviously the biggest aspect of the Olympics) to take the competition to a higher level.

“The more you exercise, the better you do” could be the main mantra of this title, but some strategy is involved. Sequencing and timing play important roles into the repetitive actions. For example, in running event you must learn to anticipate the gun (ever see Man on Fire?) and there’s a little trial and error with the timing on other games too like finding a calming, ideal heartbeat when skeet shooting. Players also get rests for high concentration moments like in the triple jump where you chuck you arms like crazy until the game “locks” in your speed so you can stop and concentrate on your jump launching spots.

Game makers accurately capture the Olympic experience on both sides with crowd noise, character reaction and the objective, monotone announcers. Audiences will boo if you don’t medal and your character will consequently show their disappointment. Players can always try again immediately after the event/mission as menu immediately appears and allows you to repeat event/mission, change character or change event/mission.

Players of all ages can find success in several events, which promotes the fun, party-like multiplayer gameplay. You’ll have fun watching the other players too. The only thing that could slow down the pace is patiently waiting for less skilled players to complete the longer events. The only thing game producers could do there would be adding a “mercy rule”-like break with the option to stop or continue. Four separate saved profiles and handicap settings help even more. Producers also stress the joy of winning with instant replays (at slower speeds) and the standard award ceremony. Plenty of room to expand the dream events and online capabilities in future installments (hopefully producers don’t wait until 2011…2010 Winter Olympics perhaps?). Look for a Nintendo DS version of this game in January 2008.

is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief.

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