As a single player game it’s a complete and utter non event – and that’s an understatement
Mario Sports Mix has four sports on offer; Dodgeball, basketball, volleyball and hockey (though for the most part it’s roller hockey as opposed to straight up ice hockey or field hockey), with each sport having its own relatively strong identity. However the real issue here was always going to be whether having a title that splits its focus among multiple sports would stand up to the other sports based Mario titles which concentrate solely on a single one.In Short:
In Dodgeball each character has a power meter, which you must deplete all the way to zero in order to knock them out of the game. To help you, each character has their own special spam move which doles out a huge amount of damage, although in the interest of balance you’ll find yourself stranded on the opposition’s side of the court should you miss., while collecting coins makes your attacks become more and more powerful.
Basketball is quite similar to recent EA release NBA Jam in that anything goes. With no such thing as fouls in the rules you’re free to slap your opponents around as much as you like, making for some seriously fun multiplayer action with your friends. The 3v3 action features all the familiar basketball trademarks like slam dunks, swanky dribbling and insane ally oops as well as some trademark Mario moments.
The hockey element is probably our favourite, thanks to the abysmal goalie AI. While it may sound like a bad thing, when you’re playing against your friends it only serves to make things more tense – although ridiculously high scoring matches are often the name of the game here.
Finally, volleyball allows the more technical players to shine thanks to the ability to bend the ball mid air to confuse your opponents. To ensure things never get unnecessarily tricky though, a handy pink circle shows the rough area where the ball is going to land at any given time, allowing for plenty of notice and creating a much more evenly balanced experience.
Each of the characters has their own special moves, and each stage features various visual gimmicks and slight gameplay alterations to ensure longevity is maximised. Although not each stage supports every sport, there’s an average of 12 different stages for each, so there’s plenty of variety on offer.
Unfortunately, Mario Sports Mix is let down by a few things. Firstly, as we mentioned before, as a single player game it’s a complete and utter non event – and that’s an understatement. The AI is so bad it’s essentially pointless. We also had an issue with the hidden characters, namely that there are none from any of the Mario games. That’s right, in a game called MARIO Sports Mix, all the hidden characters are Square Enix ones. It’s not bloody Final Fantasy Sports Mix for God’s sake! Then there are the unlocks. Comprising of new and costumes stages, each one needs to be unlocked for each sport, meaning that it’s not a fun experience at all. And finally, there is of course the fact that with four sports crammed onto the disk, none of them feel substantial enough to warrant your attention for too long, creating a diluted experience for even the most dedicated Mario lovers.
Mario Sports Mix is a pleasing change of pace for the franchise, and even though it lacks depth there’s plenty to do for the more casual player at least. Not worth bothering with unless you’re going to play with friends (either locally or via WiFi), in which case it’s a blast, if somewhat limited.