Giant Bomb Review

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Mario Sports Mix Review

2
  • Wii

Mario Sports Mix serves little purpose, save but to further dilute your fond memories of Mario's better sporting days.

This statement might come off like the apocryphal ranting of an alarmist lunatic, but it needs to be said: I think we've hit the limit of what can be done creatively with the mascot sports game genre. I know, I know! How is that even possible? There are still so many sports that pudgy plumbers, barrel-tossing gorillas and child-voiced dinosaurs have yet to partake of. American football! Rugby! Cricket! Water polo! Greco-Roman wrestling! TV 'rasslin'! SlamBall! Yes, the world of sport still seems very much open to Nintendo's plundering, but after playing through Mario Sports Mix, a B-sides collection of Mario-infected sports games and sports-infected mini-games tossed together with seemingly minimum effort, you will likely find yourself hard-pressed to muster much enthusiasm for any future entries in this genre.

 If you're hoping that you'll finally get your chance to break Yoshi's spine on the hockey rink, you're going to be sorely disappointed.
Mario Sports Mix comes with variations on hockey, dodgeball, volleyball, and basketball, the latter of which developer Square-Enix previously explored in the DS-only title Mario Hoops 3-on-3. This is a fine-sounding collection on paper that, nevertheless, fails to impress due to Squeenix's lackluster execution. Each included game offers just enough mechanically to qualify as "sport," and the precise minimum amount of Nintendo-brand goofiness to fill the appropriate "Mario" quotient. Take dodgeball as a prime example. What is typically portrayed as a fairly fast-paced game of exciting injuries is flatly trotted out here as the dullest game of "toss the ball and hope someone has their back turned" ever created. Seriously, unless you or your opponent have your back turned, it's way easy to just catch the ball and toss it back in ceaseless volleys. Never mind that it takes multiple hits to knock out any player on the field, and never mind that your Mario-fied special moves are either insanely overpowered, or insanely useless, depending on which specific character you're controlling...actually, never mind what I just said. I did mind all of that.

Though dodgeball is ostensibly the worst of the bunch, all the other sports suffer from similarly lacking forethought and fun. Volleyball just has you endlessly running to a marked spot on the sand/blacktop/rotating thing that is sometimes on fire, and simply waggling the Wii remote to hit the ball, with the perpetual hope that someone on the other team will magically not make it to the marked circle on their side of the net in time. Basketball is more or less the same core experience you may have played in Mario Hoops, minus the stylus action. You pass, you steal, you shoot, and you dunk all over Waluigi's punk ass using fairly simplified controls that result in a lot of scoring, and not a great deal of defense--except against the toughest AI, in which case the inverse is true. Hockey is simultaneously the best and most disappointing of the games. The pace is quick and some of the scoring special moves are cool, but the hitting feels severely weak, and scoring is completely out of control on the earlier difficulty levels, and damn near impossible on the higher ones.

Hockey's problems actually speak to an issue with Mario Sports Mix's AI across the board, one that rears its head in especially ugly fashion during the game's assorted tournaments. On the opening difficulty levels, Mario Sports Mix is absurdly easy. I'm not talking on a normal kid's game level, either. A child would have a field day bowling over these stump-dumb meatheads, which makes the fact that you have to play through multiple matches in each tournament on these borderline brain-dead difficulties absolutely maddening. For one level--the one before the toughest--the AI puts up what one might call a reasonable, challenging fight. Then you go onto the toughest level, and all reason flies out the window as you get obliterated over and over.

 If you can run into giant colored circles, you can be successful at this game's version of volleyball.
Other pervasive problems rear their head as well. The pacing of basketball and hockey seem right, until the scoring starts happening. Every time you score a goal or a basket, the game resets to half-court/center-ice. That's normal for hockey, but the frequency of scoring--especially in games against the AI--means that a three-minute period can last up to 10-to-15 minutes if you or the computer continuously scores. At one point in an easy tournament match I just resorted to playing keep away for two-and-a-half minutes, after I'd already scored ten goals. In basketball, this constant resetting is nothing short of deadly to the pace of the game. 
 
Similarly a problem across all included games is the obnoxious method of player switching. Passing a ball or puck to a computer-controlled teammate does not automatically switch control to that player--you have to press a button to manually make the switch. In multiplayer matches this is not much of a problem, since theoretically you have real teammates who do not require your constant babysitting, but when you have the computer on your side, this is awful. On lower settings, they never quite seem to know what to do with the ball or puck, and if you happen to be playing on one of the wackier stages, they rarely can figure out how to get around the bugged-out obstacles that pop up, which makes that extra step of having to manually switch control deeply annoying.

There are also four included mini-games, each loosely wrapped around the mechanics of one of the main sports. For instance, Feed Petey uses basketball as a base to create a game where up to four players run around, collecting low-hanging fruit of varying point values, and then run them up to a giant Petey plant to stuff down his gullet. That game contains a certain level of controlled-chaos that is mildly amusing in a multiplayer setting, but the pace of it isn't nearly exciting enough to amuse beyond a few playthroughs with friends. Other mini-games fare less favorably. Smash Skate revolves exclusively around knocking people off of a platform using hockey checks, which barely seem to register at times. Harmony Hustle is literally a game built around players running to marked spots on a field in correct time...to make awful, chintzy sounding notes from a classic video game tune. 
 
Some of these problems are lessened when playing in multiplayer, which you can do offline or on (against coded friends or uncoded strangers), but even at the game's height of playability, Mario Sports Mix simply comes across like a bizarre copy of a copy. It's a fax-machine quality retread of such startling inanity that, at a point, you might actually find your fond memories of Mario sports games past overwritten by this blur of dispassionate mediocrity. We're a long way from the days of great games like Mario Tennis and Mario Golf, and with each progressively lamer franchise installment Nintendo thrusts upon us, that divide just continues to widen. Alex Navarro on Google+
37 Comments
Posted by HariHazler

yo

Posted by MegaGoat

Bum

Posted by bassman2112

That's.... Slightly higher than I expected after seeing that QL

Posted by Jackhole

Lets mix things up. Am I right?

Posted by Marconi88

Expected 1 star. 

Posted by bretthancock

Really disappointed in this game, coming from a diehard fan of Mario Strikers Charged and the Gamecube baseball one.  What a let down.   Those games actually had depth and strategy, which is hard to find in "real" sports games, so go figure Mario would be the one to include them.

Posted by AxleBro

makes sense. its a kids game and you are a grown man. it's not for you or any of the users on this site. lol hence why this game is 1 or 2 stars

Posted by Homeslice

Might be time to make a few more Navarro cartoons.

Posted by JJOR64

Seen that score coming.  As a fan of the Mario sports game, this game doesn't look too great.  I guess I will play the waiting game and wait for a new Golf or Tennis game.

Posted by AxleBro
@Homeslice:  AGREED, if alex is doing more frequent reviews he needs actual pics and not just the covert ops 1 where he sneaks in on our giantbomb reviews. i think its time he got pictures.
Edited by DoctorSensei

The red flag for me was the game's lack of personality or charm. If you can say that about a Mario game, you know you messed up.

Posted by LackLuster

Man Nintendo should just focus on the one sport thing again cause that tended to work out pretty well for them.

Posted by WhiteBrightKnight

Games like this are why I sometimes hate Nintendo.  I mean, they've made and published some of the greatest games of all time, but when they put so little effort into a game it pisses my off.  Same thing with the Mario All-Stars collection, it advertises 20 tracks from the games but there are really only 10; plus it's just a straight port of the SNES game with no added features.  Back to Mario Sports Mix, it's especially disappointing considering how much I have enjoyed Mario Golf and Mario Soccer throughout the years.  Why put effort to this shit instead of making a new Starfox game? or F-Zero?
Posted by bretthancock
@Axleisbored:  Disagree, most of the early Mario sports games were just well made games, not kiddy in anyway.
Posted by Sil3n7

This game looks super bare bones...

Posted by DEFE

I knew this game wouldn't be good, but man....just another spin-off to sweep under the rug, I suppose.

Posted by Claude

This game probably didn't deserve to be reviewed. Looks gross.

Posted by OllyOxenFree

Caca dookie.

Posted by TehJedicake
@JJOR64: Fuuucckkkkkkk
Posted by ThePelinal

There needs to be a cartoon Alex for the review headers.

Posted by Siphillis
@ThePelinal said:
" There needs to be a cartoon Alex for the review headers. "
Using his podcast avatar is almost as lazy as developing Mario Sports Mix.
Posted by Tireyo

Bummer. Course, I wasn't going to get it anyway, no matter how good or bad it looked.

Posted by bybeach

This is just a money game., something to ostensibly keep the kids entertained, and  in a most primary way relieve the parent of some of the bills in their wallet or purse during the proccess.. technically win win unless one takes a closer look into choices. Or the lack of them perhaps, idk. 
 
I guess the Reviewer's point is that this is a sub-par game, though by no means broken or less than fully functional. It serves it's purpose and no mas. Maybe reviewing this is the trade- off for Alex to review Stacking. Both reviews were well written, though Stacking more inspired.
Posted by Crushed
@WhiteBrightKnight said:
" Games like this are why I sometimes hate Nintendo.  I mean, they've made and published some of the greatest games of all time, but when they put so little effort into a game it pisses my off.  Same thing with the Mario All-Stars collection, it advertises 20 tracks from the games but there are really only 10; plus it's just a straight port of the SNES game with no added features.  Back to Mario Sports Mix, it's especially disappointing considering how much I have enjoyed Mario Golf and Mario Soccer throughout the years.  Why put effort to this shit instead of making a new Starfox game? or F-Zero? "
It's kinda funny, because Nintendo didn't really develop those sports games.
 
Mario Golf was made by Camelot.
Mario Strikers was made by Next Level.
Mario Sports Mix is made by Square-Enix.
Edited by JJWeatherman
@Siphillis said:

" @ThePelinal said:

" There needs to be a cartoon Alex for the review headers. "
Using his podcast avatar is almost as lazy as developing Mario Sports Mix. "
Considering he's not even technically part of Giant Bomb, I'm of the opinion that it's better than nothing. I actually like it. 
 
I'm a bit shocked at how bad this turned out to be. Usually anything Mario related is of a certain base quality. You're lowering the bar, Nintendo.
Posted by Jolt92

Man I wanted this to be good. I really liked Strikers Charged, I'm wishing for a new Mario Tennis but I bet we aren't gonna see that. 

My dream is another Mario Tennis for a portable system that has the same RPG mechanics as the GBC version did. That game was great.

Posted by Kjellm87

It was ok, with some friends and the computer cranked up to expert.
Still, take it back and make it better, it has potential

Posted by spankingaddict
@Homeslice said:
" Might be time to make a few more Navarro cartoons. "
Exactly what I was thinking..
Posted by Behonkiss

So I guess Alex is ignoring how awesome the Strikers games were, and insisting that everything after Golf and Tennis sucked?

Posted by Deathmachine117
@Axleisbored:  Not exactly look at  the kirbys epic yarn review lol
Posted by Sherban
@bretthancock said:
" Really disappointed in this game, coming from a diehard fan of Mario Strikers Charged and the Gamecube baseball one.  What a let down.   Those games actually had depth and strategy, which is hard to find in "real" sports games, so go figure Mario would be the one to include them. "
Evidently you don't play enough "real" sports games ;) Here are some suggestions: 
FIFA 11
NHL 11
MLB: The Show 10 (11 comes out in March, so you might wanna wait)
NBA 2K11 
All feature hella depth and strategy, and are "real" enough
Posted by Alex
@Behonkiss: 
 
Strikers was good, but I wouldn't put it in the same category as Tennis or Golf. I also liked Mario Superstar Baseball for the Cube quite a bit.
Staff
Posted by headcase

I'd stay away from using the word "ostensibly" in that way; you basically sold yourself short by saying that you didn't spend any time looking for hidden depth in the games.
 
Still a good review though! Haven't played the game but "good action game" and "Squeenix" are rarely found in the same sentence. Unless the sentence is "Squeenix has never made a good action game". So I'll take your word for it Alex :)    

Posted by TheGEL

Okay, you know I do have to throw myself into the fire and defend this one. A few things I'd like to point out:
 
"Similarly a problem across all included games is the obnoxious method of player switching. Passing a ball or puck to a computer-controlled teammate does not automatically switch control to that player--you have to press a button to manually make the switch."
 
There's an option in the options menu for Automatic switching. In fact, it's the only option in Tournament mode. Admittedly this should have been the default but it IS there..
 
"...and the precise minimum amount of Nintendo-brand goofiness to fill the appropriate "Mario" quotient." 
 
Actually I'd point out that there's a lot MORE Mario-isms this time around. Coins seldom make it into Mario spin-offs anymore, the stage gimmicks actually ADD SOMETHING to the game (not to mention the stages are based off of Mario Kart tracks, giving a bit of continuity to it all), and the Supers are actually unique and not just instant-goals with different animations like they usually are.
 
Honestly, there IS some depth here. I've found that I am able to do nearly every maneuver from Super Dodgeball in this game's rendition of the sport except for passing a super charge. The PROBLEM is that the game does a piss poor job of TELLING YOU this! Nowhere in the tutorials, instruction book, or control help screen does it tell you that running with the ball results in a Power Throw. You have to be told by a between round tip screen. The control screen for Volleyball never tells you you can press 1 (in Wiimote-only mode) after a jump to do that light spike that goes over blocks. The controls for Hockey never tell you that you can hold Z for a charge shot and took forever to mention that the Combo Move works in Hockey as well! The list goes on!
 
But...yes the AI in the Normal Mode Tournaments is downright brainless to the point where Mushroom Cup is actually somewhat painful to play through and with the computer putting up no fight and the sparse instructions, it's difficult to notice the GAME hidden in there.

Posted by BitterAlmond
@Axleisbored said:
" makes sense. its a kids game and you are a grown man. it's not for you or any of the users on this site. lol hence why this game is 1 or 2 stars "
The Mario sports games were never exclusively "kids games". They were true "family games" that everyone could enjoy. This seems to no longer be the case, however.
Posted by Kjellm87
@BitterAlmond said:
" @Axleisbored said:
" makes sense. its a kids game and you are a grown man. it's not for you or any of the users on this site. lol hence why this game is 1 or 2 stars "
The Mario sports games were never exclusively "kids games". They were true "family games" that everyone could enjoy. This seems to no longer be the case, however. "
Screw that,
It took some time, but I realised the game is more deep than you think, and now that I can a couple of tricks I enjoy it much more.
 
The only thing that's painful is computers on normal or below.
Posted by StriderNo9

Awesome review, do more reviews Alex!