TSS took to the snow with the 2010 Olympic Winter Games hopeful and Half-Pipe Snowboarder extraordinaire Ben Kilner to watch some spectacular stunts on the slopes at Manchester’s massive indoor snow slope Chill FactorE. We also got a taste of the action, and another sneaky peek and play at some more of the up-and-coming Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games title for the Nintendo Wii!
Now, as we were all so busy running around at Summer of Sonic back in August, that between setup and pack up, I never got a chance to play M&S, so this was my first time getting stuck into the title good and proper. This first thing at which I instantly got myself excited over was the opportunity to finally play as Metal Sonic and kick some hedgehog “ice” (..ugh…a Mr Freeze pun already?) with old iron-head – fantastic to see he is a speed-based character too! Silver also joins the fray, and is actually frighteningly graceful in the figure-skating event, which is surprisingly fun to play amongst all the other arm flailing – he must have had some time in the post-apocalyptic future to practice his stuff! We also see the Mario Universe’s favourite tie-sporting monkey Donkey Kong being added to the list of playable characters, as well as (and much to my squeals of delight again) Baby Bowser with his ultra-whiney voice appearing, expanding the cast even further.
I had initially wondered what exactly was going to be so different with this Olympic Games title to differentiate it from the last, and as it turns out, a surprising amount actually. One feature of the title is that you can take get your Wii Fit mat out from out of your cupboard, brush off the dust and use with the game in many events. The Snow-boarding challenges can utilise the board balancing mechanisms in order to map your movements to characters on screen, in order to create as real as an experience as possible in the front room. Even Ben seemed to be enjoying a go himself on the board, saying the motions weren’t miles off the real thing! A big feature of the M&SATOWG is the emphasis on the co-op modes throughout the game, which is a nice change of pace from its competition-heavy predecessor. With the right arrangement of chairs and friends, you can simulate the four person bobsled; another spectacular example of lots of people making fools of themselves while tilting from side to side in unison! On the note of looking the most foolish, the Skeleton event really wins over the others. You can literally pay the game on your chest while lying down on your Wii Fit board, shifting your weight from side to side in order to stay within the optimal path around the run – definitely one for Granny if she fancies getting involved after Christmas Dinner!
Now, one of the points where I thought Mario and Sonic titles fell a little bit short of getting the gold was with the “Dream Event” games. For those of you who never managed to play them, the Dream Events were more outlandish events, which brought an element of the surrealism we are used to in both the Mario and Sonic worlds; there were only previously four events to choose from in the 2007 titles, none of which particularly representative of either universe. SEGA however seem to really be getting a knack for acting on feedback though, and this time round fans are treated to more than double the stages they were offered in the first round. Not only this, the stages are now much more representative of each genre, with adaptations of the Seaside Resort and Radical Highway stages added to the catalogue of games including some fast-paced downhill snowboarding and the rather hilarious snowball fight event.
After lunch we were treated to a display of stunts from Ben and his colleagues as they powered down the 160 meter snow-slope and ramp, and soon enough it was our turn to show off our ultimate snowboarding prowess…or in our case the lack thereof. Regardless of my skill level, I thought I definitely looked cool in snow-boarding fatigues, and it wasn’t too long before I was posing with snowboard in hand and feeling like a pro. But as with all my previous experiences on slippery surfaces, the only thing I managed to do in style was fall onto my backside. I did manage to make it down the “Nursery slope” a couple of times on my feet, of which I was very proud of at the end! Community Manager AAUK has obviously visited the Ice Cap Zone many a time as he gracefully glided down the hill doing the “head, shoulder, knees and toes” routine. Mario and Sonic appeared to cheer us on (and throw the odd snowball), although I had to refuse to let Mario have a go on my snowboard and give me some tips, as I knew he’d just show off!
After a rather exhausting hour we were then treated to some less-strenuous activities, including a chance to power down the mini Luge pipe and to fly down the slopes in a rubber ring, which I couldn’t help but giggle like a school girl on all the way to the bottom. By this point Mario and Sonic had become a little bit chilly, and had begun to start dancing their own little dances, which I must say greatly amused everyone there. SEGA were even nice enough to provide us with nice wooley hoodies to warm up in afterwards, as well as keep us well fed and topped up with Malled wine! Cheers SEGA!
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games has definitely proven a point to me, in that you can change a lot of elements to a game and yet still retain its winning formula. I think anyone planning on having a few mates over during the next few months will not be disappointed with the investment in this title as it offers a lot of variety, and will again yield a massive replay value. If you are a party games player, then I sincerely suggest you stick this on your Christmas list!
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is released on the Nintendo Wii platform on the 16th of October – be sure to sled down to your nearest store and pick it up – it’s very “cool”. And yes, I’ll stop with the puns now.