Two years ago, Mario and Sonic joined forces for the first time to compete at the Beijing Summer Olympics. The result was a middling collection of sports-themed minigames that failed to deliver on the potential of that once-forbidden union. Never ones to give up, Mario and Sonic have reunited to hit the slopes and skating rinks of Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Games. It offers a slightly more diverse and entertaining assortment of events than its predecessor, but it still falls well short of earning a medal.
Adventure mode unites the heroes of Nintendo and Sega in a quest to save the Winter Games.
The game boasts 27 events, which are divided into two categories: actual Olympic events and zanier dream events. But, in fact, many of these play so similarly that it's a bit of a stretch to count them as two different events. Mechanically, ice hockey and its dream counterpart--fever ice hockey--are exactly the same. Fever hockey just has a bit of over-the-top flavor in the form of items and a shifting point value for goals. Nonetheless, there's a good variety of events on offer here. Unfortunately, most of them are simple, shallow minigames that, on their own, aren't likely to hold your interest for terribly long.
The game tries to make up for this by offering an Adventure mode--exclusive to the DS version--in which Mario and Sonic undertake a quest to rescue the Winter Games from a dastardly plot hatched by Bowser and Eggman. And to a certain extent, this works. The story helps the game get more mileage out of its expansive cast because you constantly recruit new characters to your party and encounter simple puzzles that take advantage of a character's unique traits. One such puzzle has you touch flashing buttons with Yoshi's tongue, while another has Amy using her trusty piko piko hammer to whack a series of rotating gears at the correct moment. The story pits Mario, Sonic, and friends in a face-off against Eggman, Bowser, and their cronies, and makes competing in the events feel meaningful. It also makes the overall experience feel more like a proper Mario and Sonic game.
The Adventure mode has its share of problems, though. The environments that Mario and Sonic must wander around in, looking for characters to talk to and missions to undertake, seem designed to force you to spend more time walking than necessary. This is thanks to inconveniently placed staircases and confusing layouts. The mazelike aspects to the environments are no mistake--one of the towns you'll explore is called Cubyrinth--but constantly having to waste time finding your way around and going the long way to get to a spot that should be just a few short steps away gets tiresome. It also makes the Adventure mode feel artificially padded. And although there's a good amount of variety to the missions you undertake, many of them are much too simple to be enjoyable. Passing the puck a few times in ice hockey or performing a starting dash in the luge event by releasing the A button at the right moment are such basic tasks that the Adventure mode would have been stronger without them, but these and other similarly undemanding assignments make up a fair number of your missions.