Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Mario Sports Mix

Mario Sports Mix

Fall 2011 Video Games
Ages: All Ages
Price: $49.99
Gaming System: Nintendo Wii

Mario sports games have a well-deserved reputation for being fun, funny and competitive for all ages. And this latest whacky Mario title meets most, if not all, of those expectations with high marks.

Mario Sports Mix offers four games—basketball, hockey, volleyball and dodgeball—instead of just one. All four include the bizarre Mario-franchise characters you’ve come to love and expect from past classic Mario titles. Each game has lots of over-the-top moves, with players leaping and flying around, strange obstacles popping up, weapons exploding, and crazy special effects—most of which add not only a lot of flash and fun but true-to-Mario chaos. Strange playing arenas are the norm. Power ups and coins give additional Mario dimension. And, good news, the graphics and animations are a lot better than you’d expect in a Wii game.

Al ofl the games are fun—a couple more than the others. But here’s the knock: While all of the sports are overloaded with personality and high-impact visuals (Luigi uses a vacuum cleaner to steal a hockey puck), they’re lacking in gameplay details.

For instance, Mario has featured basketball games in past titles and this one isn’t going to make you forget the previous hoops. The biggest problem is that the game’s brain (artificial intelligence) controls too much of the gameplay and isn’t all that smart. Players in basketball are not only able to bash each other, they pretty much have to if they want to win.

Maybe familiarity breeds higher expectations, but the basketball and hockey games aren’t as engaging as the volleyball and dodgeball games. Maybe it’s because, except for special shots and nutty gimmicks, volleyball is basically volleyball and dodgeball is basically dodgeball. Though the Mario craziness never ends. At one point in dodgeball, cannons blast away at players. A volleyball game, meanwhile, might show a floor made of moving log rafts.

It helps that the game has a tournament mode, multiple difficulty levels, and one to three players options. There’s even Wii wifi for playing against remote opponents. But serious gamers won’t be amused for long, and veteran Mario players will probably find the four games too easy. Younger players looking for some Mario madness, on the other hand, will find it here. Though it’s not an educational title, it does provide plenty of fun.

Don Oldenburg   ©2011 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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