|   March 6, 2014   12:59 PM ET

Rev your tiny engines and shine up your spiky red shells: Mario Kart 8 is coming soon.

The latest instalment is one of the most influential and playable racing games of all time will be released on Nintendo Wii U on 30 May.

To mark the release Nintendo have announced a range of promotions and news about the game - and a new trailer, which you can see above.

The new tidbits of info include:

  • Super Mario Kart will hit the Wii U eShop on 27 March
  • Mario Kart 8 Limited Edition will come with a Spiny Shell ornament
  • Anyone buying Super Mario Kart will get a £5.49 discount from the new title when it's released
  • Mario Kart-themed keyrings will be available from different outlets when you pre-order (see Nintendo's site for details)
  • Super Mario Kart-themed wheel will be available from Game

  |   February 17, 2014    2:21 PM ET

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U) is the latest in the great ape's platforming adventures, out on Friday.

The Pitch:

"Control the Kongs as they leap, run and roll through action-packed stages on a quest to reclaim Donkey Kong Island from the marauding Snowmads! Use each character’s unique moves to explore every corner of all six islands, unearth special items and even hidden exits!"

Verdict:

Platformers have been around longer than almost any other type of video game. And while the genre has splintered and recombined into a thousand different forms and types since then, from 3D adventure games like Tomb Raider to ultra-simplified mobile titles like Canabalt, the core popularity of jumping on platforms with little cartoon characters - even in their original, retro form - remains intact.

And it's still a creatively vital genre, too - look at the ecstatically received Rayman Legends, Super Mario 3D World and Tearaway for evidence.

The tension at the heart of the genre, though, is obvious. When you're basing your game on a mechanic arguably perfected in the mid-1980s you'll need some new ideas - but you don't want to change everything and lose the essence of what made this type of game fun in the first place. The temptation might be to just put an HD sheen on an old game and hope nobody notices - something Nintendo has done more than once in the lifetime of the Wii U. Or try something entirely new - like the recent Sonic Lost World did in places - but risk failure.


'Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze', Nintendo's new Wii U platformer, is a good example of how those tensions can work both for you and against you. With more than a debt to the original SNES squillion-selling game, and the more recent Wii 'DKC Returns', it's a total genre platformer, which retains pretty much everything you may already know from the Donkey Kong series. It's 2D, and difficult, and goes left to right, and as such it occasionally seems overly familiar and a little bit dull.

That said, developer Retro are willing to throw in both new ideas and a new sense of graphical polish and mechanical tightening to keep things feeling fresh. And the result is that you'll be pleasantly surprised far more often during the game than you would have any right to expect.

There's about 12-15 hours of game here, with six themed islands to explore and dozens of levels, boss monsters and secrets to tackle. Each stage is a mix of path-finding, reactions-based jumps and challenges, combat and puzzle solving, but with a totally different sense of weight and momentum to the movement than you'll be used to from Mario and Rayman games. There are also two new smaller members of the Kong family to help Donkey Kong get through the levels, each with their own special abilities, and chances for less expert players to buy items to help them through. It's less well judged in multiplayer, where the deliberate nature of the levels starts to fall apart. But that's only an occasional issue.

Obviously, as you can tell from the footage, the game also looks fantastic, with the HD graphics shining on Nintendo's upgraded console and the constantly moving camera swinging and zooming at set moments to give players the best view of the brilliantly realised scenery.

This is a game which uses stunning design, inventive ideas and graphical polish to turn what could have been a fairly retread into something which feels more like a genuine masterwork. The downside is just that there's very little here you won't have seen before - or at least that you won't believe you haven't seen before. There's little attempt to use the Nintendo gamepad for anything beyond off-TV play, and no spectacularly imaginative deviations from the Donkey Kong formula. The loading times are egregious, some of the story elements are dull and the enemies are generic.

You can't say this is anything other than a totally gorgeous, fun and engaging platformer. It's just, that's all it is.

4starstechdarkblue

  |   February 14, 2014   11:21 AM ET

Mario Kart 8 will be released on May 30th in the UK, Nintendo has announced.

The new instalment in the classic series of racers is a key release for Nintendo and its Wii U console, which saw a wealth of critically acclaimed releases in 2014 but achieved lacklustre sales.

The new game will arrive under a huge amount of scrutiny, but as far as we can tell established fans shouldn't worry too much.

In a limited play test last year the game showcased everything we already love about Mario Kart, but added new gravity-bending tracks, and a range of new characters (Bowsers minions, 'Iggy, Larry, Ludwig, Morton, Roy and Wendy').

In a 'Nintendo Direct' press announcement the company added that 'Little Mac' from the classic NES game 'Punch-Out!!' will be present in the upcoming release of Super Smash Bros for Wii U, while Nes Remix 2 will be released on 25 April and Super Luigi Bros - a new right-to-left scrolling platformer - will be released soon too.

Nintendo also announced:

  • Game Boy Advance titles coming to Wii U Virtual Console: Including Metroid Fusion, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, and Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3.
  • Mario Golf: World Tour for 3DS will have extensive training and customisation modes
  • Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate for 3DS in 2015
  • Bayonetta 2: A new trailer for Bayonetta 2 showcased the Umbran Climax, a single, powerful attack that allows Bayonetta to release all her accumulated magic power.

Michael Rundle   |   January 21, 2014    1:16 PM ET

Dr Luigi (£13.49, Wii U) is an update to the classic Nintendo Tetris-like puzzler available on the eShop.

Key Features

  • Classic 'Retro Remedy' mode
  • Operation L mode adds L-shaped blocks
  • Germ Buster uses touchscreen controls
  • Online multiplayer and leaderboards

The Pitch

"Armed with plenty of multi-coloured, two-part capsules, help Dr. Luigi clear a bottle infested with nasty viruses. Annihilate the nuisances by dropping pills of the same colour next to or on top of them – create a horizontal or vertical line of four or more like-coloured pieces and they’ll disappear. Empty the whole bottle to move on to tougher challenges – but if it fills to the brim, the viruses win!"

nintendo

Verdict

As with seemingly everything Nintendo releases these days, Dr Luigi is a remake of an old established classic. But this time, instead of totally re-imagining an already beloved game, or updating the graphics to the point of literal beauty, the Japanese wounded giant has instead slightly updated a minor league, but really fun, title, and asked you to pay just under £15 for it. No less than that - but also not much more either.

The game itself is simple, addictive and extremely robust. Like so many puzzle games of its era (Dr Mario first appeared in 1990) it takes Tetris as its starting point, and adds just enough of a twist to turn it into something new. In the game Luigi puts on a white doctor's coat, and attempts to destroy viruses by manipulating dual colour 'pills' which fall from the top of a bottle down to the floor. By building rows or columns around each little germ in the right colour, you can take them out: if a red germ forms part of a four-red line, it's destroyed, and so on.

At first it's a little tricky, but gradually the game starts to shine - as it always has - as you start to see the patterns and strategies that extrapolate from that simple premise. In multiplayer, side-by-side or online, it's much more fun as each cleared line and combo inflicts horrible wrinkles and setbacks on your opponent.

This time around you get a couple of new modes, too. Operation L adds L-shaped blocks, (… for Luigi) but that's a bit of a let-down, as the blocks each contain lines of three colours and so make it too easy to destroy the bugs. You also get a touchscreen mode, which is nice and works well, but is perhaps a bit shallow.

Otherwise, there isn't much different about the game compared to the original- which given its 33-year long history is pretty strange on Nintendo's part - almost as if the game was once intended to be a more thorough remake, but shipped early. The graphics are very basic -- utilitarian and then some -- and there isn't much else in the presentation or mechanics to write home about.

The major downside is the price. Dr Luigi plays like a game you'd buy for a couple of quid on the App Store, and play on the train until you get bored. Instead it costs north of £13, and you can only play it at home. Whether or not that makes sense to you depends on whether you still love Dr Mario enough to cough up the cash, or whether there are enough people in your house who'll play it with you on the sofa.

Then there's the elephant in the room. For with the Wii U in such dire straits, Nintendo needs more genuinely new and unique games on which to peg the console's future - or rather, its rebirth. Dr Luigi is a nice to have for existing owners, but in the wider context of Nintendo gaming it feels like a weird, overpriced and unhealthily nostalgic distraction.

3starstechdarkblue

  |   January 20, 2014   10:52 AM ET

Off the back of extremely disappointing Wii U sales, declining profits and cratering share price, Nintendo's president has admitted Mario's future phone might one day be - at least partially - your smartphone.

Satoru Iwata said at a press conference that the company is "thinking about a new business structure" after announcing that it expects a loss of $240 million in this financial year.

"Given the expansion of smart devices, we are naturally studying how smart devices can be used to grow the game-player business."

"The way people use their time, their lifestyles [and] who they are have changed," he said. "If we stay in one place, we will become outdated."

The idea of Nintendo making games for phones or other consoles is not new - far, far from it. Industry 'analysts' have consistently said that the company should broaden its appeal, given its apparent inability to match the new generation of home consoles on its own.

But don't expect Nintendo to give up on hardware just yet. Any phone or tablet releases will likely be smaller-scale, brand-building exercises, rather than full scale releases if Iwata is to be believed.

"It’s not as simple as enabling Mario to move on a smartphone," he told Bloomberg.

For now Nintendo will forge ahead with its established Wii U and 3DS plans. And as ever, whatever its financial performance there are some great games to look forward to, including new Mario Kart and Smash Bros titles, plus a new instalment in the Zelda franchise.

  |   January 17, 2014   10:31 AM ET

Nintendo's Wii U has been responsible for some of the very best video games of recent months on any system.

Unfortunately, it still isn't selling very many.

The confusingly named all-new follow-up to the hugely popular Wii has sold less units in more than a year than the Xbox One and PS4 did in their first month on sale, Nintendo has admitted.

The company initially expected to sell 9 million Wii U machines in the financial year to April. Now? Just 2.8 million.

It also cut forecasts for its actually-very-successful 3DS handheld, with estimates down from 18 million to 13.5 million.

Overall Nintendo said it expects to make a $240m loss in this financial year. While the company as a whole is pretty healthy - it has at least $6 billion in the bank - it will have to work hard to regain a foothold in the living room console market, if that remains a long-term goal.

Titles to be launched in 2014 include Mario Kart 8 and a Wii U version of Super Smash Bros. These could bring another boost to the Wii U's fortunes, but it seems unlikely they will be the big breakthrough the system needs.

"It is now expected that our sales will fail to meet our previous forecast by a large margin," said Nintendo president Satoru Iwata.

On the Wii U, Iwata said:

"Sales in the U.S. and European markets in which we entered the year-end sales season with a hardware markdown were significantly lower than our original forecasts, with both hardware and software sales experiencing a huge gap from their targets.

In addition, we did not assume at the beginning of the fiscal year that we would perform a markdown for the Wii U hardware in the U.S. and European markets. This was also one of the reasons for lower sales and profit estimates."

Iwata has now presided over an 80% decline in the company's value since 2007.

  |   January 6, 2014    9:25 PM ET

So now 2013's out of the way, with its meagre offering of gaming news (we only had two new consoles, massive franchise reboots, the best Mario game in decades and the most thrilling indie line-up ever), let's look to the future.

For while GTA 5 and FIFA 14 are all well and good, there's still a ridiculous amount of gaming goodness coming up next year. Like... FIFA 15. (And more exciting stuff too).

To that end, we've pulled together our rolling list of the 10 most exciting upcoming video games you'll play in 2014.

Take a look at our selections, and let us know if we've missed any.

  |   December 20, 2013   11:36 AM ET

If you're a hardcore gamer, you're probably going to end up with a PS4 or Xbox One this Christmas - and fair enough. They're both great systems, and you can read our reviews here (Xbox One and PS4) to make your mind up (as long as you can find one).

But if you're a family, a committed retro-gamer or someone with fonder memories of Mario than you'd usually admit, we think you should look again in Nintendo's direction.

While the new Wii U console hasn't been a huge commercial hit yet, the range of games and experiences available is pretty impressive. And with Mario Kart 8 looming next year, there's never been a better time to jump on board.

Added to that there's the issue of price. You can pick up a Wii U bundle (with the Gamepad and at least one included game) for £250 - more than £100 less than either of the newer, beastier machines from Sony or Microsoft.

If you decide to go for it, here are nine of the key games that we think you should play. Not all of them are big titles - some cost just a few pounds, and will be very familiar if you had a console in the early 1990s. But all will be insanely fun - and get you great value for money.

Disney Infinity Hands Game Development Tools to Families

Andy Robertson   |   December 17, 2013    8:23 AM ET

2013-12-17-ToyBox6_Huffington.jpg


Disney Infinity's most over-looked feature could save families money, help children get creative and may even open the door to a new career in game development.

Imagine how video-games are made and large teams of highly talented individuals spring to mind. Making a game used to be something teenagers would do in their bedrooms, but now the feeling is they are made in office blocks.

Disney Infinity is one of a number of games that wants to change this by putting simple accessible game creation tools in the hands of everybody. Their new title is well known for using physical toys to access in-game characters in the Play Set adventures but less well known for its Toy Box game development mode.

For families this not only opens the door to new creativity but also increases the value on offer in Disney's latest game. Take those toy characters into the Toy Box mode and you can change everything about the world from the way the sky looks to the terrain on the ground and number of buildings on the horizon.

Most interesting, perhaps, is the ability to make simple connections to trigger "game logic". This is the ability of players to make things happen while they explore the world. Perhaps picking up a block will cause an avalanche, kicking a ball into a goal will increase their score or falling into a trap will spawn a slew of enemies to attack.

The problem here is that it takes time to learn how this all works, and the more exciting parts of the Toy Box have to be earned as you play making first impressions more limited. However, with a little time and attention this aspect of Disney Infinity, like Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet and EA's Create, can really start to deliver something new.

To that end, with the help of Disney, I've set-up some "guinea pig" families to try this out and will be filming the results. In what I hope will become a comprehensive beginners guide to the Toy Box game creation mode, families will offer first hand advice on how to get the most out of it.

As you can see here in the video, getting started isn't as hard as you might imagine and you can quickly create a world and challenge for the family to enjoy. Equally this is easy enough to put together for younger family members to get involved.

Perhaps, rather than buying new games this Christmas a good present would be to pledge your children time spent together making your own games in the Toy Box.

Gaming Titans Cross Swords in Battle of Media Convergence

Paul Dantanus   |   November 29, 2013   11:10 AM ET

At the dawn of any new hardware cycle, we're asked to pick a side. Around us in the unrelenting frenzy of the global marketplace, the battle lines are being redrawn, the advertising troops are being mobilized and retailers begin stockpiling supplies. This year as Sony and Microsoft plotted their opening, fateful moves which are likely to define the next decade of home entertainment, it comes at a time when gaming has never commanded such power.

It may seem unthinkable, then, to see the console war heading for a truce. Over the years social theorists have predicted that, eventually, all media content is going to flow through a single black box into our living rooms. Uncannily, Xbox One has been touted as such a device. Less of a games console and more a total entertainment hub - the universal delivery system of the future - even down to its iconoclastic name, unassuming matte-gloss veneer and Kinect prerequisite. In many ways, the PlayStation 4 has followed suit. For these machines, gaming serves just one function of an ever expanding and conflating amalgam. To 'play' now means to browse, watch, listen, talk, share, touch, move and switch, all in varying combinations, all the while connected.

The acceleration of media convergence has made all technology multipurpose: televisions now have app stores, your smartphone works as a spirit level and the PlayStation 3 let you fold proteins. With the release of each newer gadget, it becomes harder to define what it actually does. In the Onion News Network's satirical report on the release of 'Sony's New Stupid Box Thing', an early adopter stood outside BestBuy states his reason for getting one at launch. "It's got... a whole bunch more memory, and megapixels... and whatnot, than any of the other TV shit that I already have". The console war, once a battle between chalk and cheese, is now being fought with Swiss army knives.

Critics have predicted that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will be defined not by graphical performance, but by their integration of social services and extended functionality. Living in a world of second screens, multi-tasking and media stacking, our lives are in thrall to what's in essence a bastardised version of tabbed browsing, with our tablets and smartphones providing further distractions from the initial distraction. The new threats to the established order in the form of Android and iOS are versatile and incredibly popular among casual audiences, who are seduced by the price, availability and cross-compatibility of their digitalised fun. And yet, this boom in 'free-to-play' comes during the same period GTA V earned a billion dollars in three days. Videogames aren't becoming vulgarized or losing their sense of distinction, they are simply diffusing in every place and entangling with every thing - music, cinema, books, radio, you name it.

Leave it to Andy Serkis, the actor and motion capture artist who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings, to elucidate. "I was listening to Classic FM this morning and the third top-ranked piece of music created uproar, because it was from a video game. It just goes to show where convergence is at," he told the Guardian. His London performance studio was used for development of the Xbox One launch title, Ryse: Son of Rome, encapsulating the fluid exchange of ideas across cultural properties in contemporary society. It came as no surprise to hear Steven Spielberg announce plans for a Halo live-action TV series. Microsoft are adhering to a grand view of interconnectivity, with the streaming of gaming content via the cloud proving perhaps the most innovative yet predictable development this time around. Lingering offstage is the Wii U: faltering, confused, and trying to solve its own identity crisis.

To the layperson, the differences between PS4 and Xbox One are almost indistinguishable, with nuanced comparisons limited to frame rate and resolution issues between the same concurrent multiplatform releases. Time will tell if their paths diverge, but at present it's like comparing an Apple with a Samsung: the patents are all that separate them from quasi-homogeneity. The software developers are merely satisfying the needs of the consumer when their content is made available on every possible format. The public demands familiarity.

This explains why it's now harder than ever to decide what console to buy. Either way, you feel like you're going to end up with the same thing: a feature-laden black box that plays games and does a bunch of stuff slightly better than before. The theory that all media content will inevitably converge into a single, ominous device was rejected by the media analyst Henry Jenkins, who labelled it, 'The Black Box Fallacy'. As he points out, we are in fact being overrun with more, not less, boxes and gizmos and clutter under our TV sets. Perhaps, then, the choice is the illusion.

  |   November 20, 2013   11:35 AM ET

Super Mario 3D World is released on 29 November for the Wii U.

Key Features:

  • Four playable characters, each with different abilities and strengths
  • Amazing variety of 3D gameplay
  • Seven worlds with inventive levels and ideas
  • New items including the 'Cat Bell' and 'Double-Up Cherry'
  • Captain Toad 3D puzzle stages

The Pitch:

"Journey with Mario, Luigi and more to the Sprixie Kingdom in SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD! Bowser has kidnapped the Sprixie Princess, and it’s up to Mario and his friends to rescue her, racing to the Goal Pole at the end of various stages along the way!"

mars rover


Verdict:

Whatever happens to the Wii U - whether it's destined for glory in 2014, set to wilt into a long-tail afterlife on eBay, or more likely somewhere in between - it now has its stone cold, stand-out, stand up and shout classic game.

Super Mario 3D World is the best Mario game since 2007's Super Mario Galaxy.

What Nintendo has done is combine the essential elements of any Mario game - basic platforming, tight controls, colourful worlds, inventive level design and challenging-but-not-frustrating gameplay - and combine them into something almost wholly new and more entertaining than you'd have a right to expect.

Yes, this time around the game is 3D. Instead of running left to right, you're running up, down, sideways and shooting through tubes to get to your goal. But this isn't just a case of placing a few blocks in different places, or making a sort of Mario-themed Tomb Raider. It's about rethinking level design and game mechanics from the ground up.

So why does it work? Like any great work of art, it's hard to know by deconstructing its basic elements. But one of the essential ingredients is the new role of multiplayer. For the first time you're able to play with your friends, and compete against them, in a seamless, silly and competitive way, without sacrificing any element. The score rankings at the end of each level let you fight for supremacy, but the generous way in which respawns and catch-ups happen means no one is ever left behind. Taking on bosses is easier and more fun en masse, but you can still hurl your friends off a cliff if you're feeling nicely mean. It's a really fun and entertaining - and new - way to play a Mario game.

nintendo


As ever, there's a silly story involved, and multiple themed worlds with different levels and side quests. But more important than the variety of locations is the gentle but sensible difficulty curve. 3D World isn't frustrating, but it is challenging - and provides a real variety of tasks. Sometimes you're battling bosses in all-out action sequences. Other times your working on a neat 3D puzzle in which Captain Toad (who cannot jump) has to navigate a little cuboid map (which you can rotate with the Gamepad) before the time runs out. It's a lovely change of pace, and illustrates the thought that's gone into the title.

There are also some neat new items - particularly the Bell which turns you into a scurrying cat able to run up walls and even the end-of-level flagpole, and the 'double up' Cherry which turns you into two (or more) of the same character, able to attack obstacles in greater numbers. But the joy here is in discovery, and the cool little twists which turn up every few minutes and make you reconsider every element of what you're doing.

If you have a Wii U, Super Mario 3D World is an essential purchase. If you don't have a Wii U and love Mario, we highly recommend you jump on board. Preferably with three friends in tow.

5starstechdarkblue

Michael Rundle   |   November 12, 2013    2:42 PM ET

Wii U Sports Club takes the original motion-gaming classic, and adds HD graphics and new online multiplayer for either £8.99 per sport (Tennis and Bowling) or £1.70 for a daily pass.

Key Features:

  • Upgraded HD Graphics
  • Online multiplayer with friends and random opponents
  • Location-based 'clubs' to compete with other regions
  • Daily pass option can lower the cost
  • Wii Remote Plus adds new precision

The Pitch:

"Wii Sports Club is a new way of experiencing all your favourite Wii Sports events, enhanced with new modes and features only available on Wii U. Enjoy deeper gameplay, online multiplayer and the chance to join clubs, all while getting active with your favourite sporting events!"

nintendo

Verdict:

When Nintendo launched the Wii U console last year, many lamented that for all the Zombi-killing and Nintendo Land adventuring on offer, the console lacked one game able to explain the new second-screen Gamepad controller and HD features as succinctly and compellingly as Wii Sports did for the previous generation.

And while it's slightly odd to realise it, looking back, that classic collection of simple motion gaming titles really was a landmark achievement.

Not because the graphics were great - they weren't, even at the time. But just because they were so damn playable. These childlike versions of Tennis, Bowling, Golf et al managed to appeal to both kids and old folks, and hardcore gamers in between, and re-introduce gaming to an audience who had ignored it for years. For many people they were the Wii. Infamously, and possibly apocryphally, some Wii users barely bothered to buy any other games for the console.

So when Nintendo announced that Wii Sports was coming back in a new wrapper for the Wii U - complete with HD graphics and new features, as well as a low-cost pricing structure - it was hard not to be both excited, and a bit depressed, at once. Excited because any chance to play these games again is very welcome - but depressed because no motion game, on Wii, Wii U or any other platform, has ever matched the original.

That aside, it's clear that in most fundamental ways the new game is just as fun and appealing as the old version. The visual upgrades are welcome - though to be honest, save for the addition of legs on your tennis players and bowlers not that obvious, given the simple art style. And the new ability to play online against your friends and random, global opponents is also straightforwardly implemented, and a natural extension of the original.

But the core of the game is still the swing-your-Wiimote, no tutorial required gameplay. And it's still really, really fun. Yes, it takes more to excel at Tennis and Bowling now - you can't just swing and hope, you have to aim your racquet - but there are some included mini-games to help you on your way, and it's still founded in the same broad strokes style as the original.

Helpfully the new title is available both as individual sports (£8.99 each) and as a day pass - meaning you can pay just £1.70 and play it with the whole family for 24 hours. It's a neat idea since the game is still way more fun with your friends and loved ones in the room with you - avoiding your enthusiastic swings, or not - and we can see a lot of people taking up the offer this Christmas.

In essence this isn't a particularly remarkable release, and it could use more sports (which are coming) - but it's a sensible one for Nintendo, and buried within are the cores of two great sports games which might be shallow, but which linger in the warm glow of gamers more concretely than a dozen FIFA sequels and hardcore sims could ever hope to do.

4starstechdarkblue

  |   November 11, 2013    4:55 PM ET

Christmas 2013 is all about love, family, hope... and video games.

Not only do we get the release of two new consoles (in the Xbox One and PS4), and the rebirth of last year's Wii U, we also have a ton of great games out for the consoles you already own.

There's something for everyone - from Mario's latest 3D outing to piracy on the high seas with Assassin's Creed, capitalistic animal care with Zoo Tycoon and - of course - the latest Pokemon.

So whether you're a hardcore single-player gamer, a casual tinkerer or a family with an over-developed sense of competitive rivalry, there's definitely something new and exciting out for you this year.

Here are our picks of the best games out this Christmas for all of the big consoles. Take a look and let us know what you think in the comments.

Michael Rundle   |   November 8, 2013    1:15 PM ET

'Mario & Sonic: Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games' is out for Wii U on 8 November.

Key Features:

  • Lots of Nintendo and Sega characters to play as
  • Big range of real Olympic events and 'dream events'
  • Interesting Wii U Gamepad controls for some games
  • Four-player multiplayer events
  • Online multiplayer

The Pitch:

"Join your favorite characters, from Mario and Sonic to Princess Peach and Amy, as they team up and compete in the most exciting sports events at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Enjoy the thrill of 24 exciting events including bobsleigh, skiing, figure skating pairs, and even snowboard slopestyle, which will make its Olympic debut in Sochi, Russia."

nintendo


Verdict:

The Olympics have rarely proven to be the inspiration for great moments in video gaming (Caveman Ugh-lympics aside...) and sadly Mario and Sonic's latest outing to the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, is no exception.

As ever this is a collection of short mini-games designed to collectively reflect the variety and depth of the Olympics. And this time around there are at least 25 to choose from, ranging from downhill skiing to figure-skating, snowboard 'slopestyle' and curling alongside a bunch of "supercharged" dream events, which try to make the Winter Olympics exciting. (Sorry, even more exciting.) So you'll be competing in "rollercoaster" bobsleigh and street-ice hockey, and other psychedelic versions of wintery pursuits, as well as traditional skiing, skating and that weird own with the rifles in it.

Predictably, some of the events work quite well, while others fall flat on their face, onto a hard, cold sheet of ice. Bobsleigh is fast and entertaining, and the Curling event is oddly compelling, especially with other players in the room with you. The 'Dream Event' version - Hole-In-One-Curling - is also pretty fun, turning the same mechanics into a golf game set in Sonic's Green Hill Zone. The skiing events are fairly solid, and the Snowball Scrimmage event - which is sort of like Call of Duty, with snowballs and Princess Peach - is also weirdly compelling, if a bit shallow. But others are less successful - Ice Hockey is all over the place, and Biathlon uses a mixed control set-up between the Wii Remote and Gamepad, which is inconsistent and annoying.

Inconsistency is the game's biggest problem overall. The control schemes are all customised for each sport and take too long to explain - both in the game's own tutorials, and to anyone playing with you in the room. The Gamepad is rarely used to its fullest, and the promising Worldwide Vs. online multiplayer mode is limited to just four events.

There is fun to be had here - the game is well produced, overall, while the appeal of having 20 Sega and Nintendo favourites duel it out at one of the world's most controversial sporting occasions is bizarrely interesting. But the game feels slow, confused and ultimately a bit irritating to play - which when most of the fun to be had is in convincing non-gamers to join in round the TV, is a bit of a killer.

2starstechdarkblue

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