A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Olympic-themed party game is safe fun for the whole family. Aside from some mild cartoon shenanigans -- such as shooting turtle shells from a hang glider -- everything in Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games is safe for consumption by children. It also provides an opportunity for players to get active as they wave their arms about in motions mimicking the action on screen or lean back, forward, and from side to side on a Wii Balance Board (note that a Balance Board is not required to play). Plus, kids will have an opportunity to learn a fair bit about the Olympics, its events, and the host city of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games as they spend credits earned in the game on books at the in-game Olympic Village library.
What's it about?
MARIO & SONIC AT THE WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES, the second title to bring together rivals Sonic and Mario, is loaded with nearly 30 events spread out over several modes. Many of the game’s sports, including speed skating, bobsled, giant slalom, skeleton, and figure skating, are authentic Olympic activities that have been somewhat simplified for the game’s young target audience. Others are considered “dream events,” such as a ski jump competition in which players fly through space collecting stars and points, and a skiing game set in a Sonic the Hedgehhog-style race course, complete with a giant loop. You can take on these events -- plus a collection of simple party games -- individually or in a group of up to four players. Sports can either be tackled on their own or played in clusters in festival mode, which runs through more than 50 events, training exercises, and rival competitions over a two week period. The Wii and DS versions offer similar design and play, with primary differences coming in the form of interface and graphics.
Is it any good?
You can think of Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games as an Olympic-themed Wii Sports. With production values akin to a Nintendo-made Mario title, loads of activities and modes to choose from, and an educational element that distills scores of interesting tidbits of trivial information about the Olympics, this year’s host city of Vancouver, and various sports (did you know all curling stones come from a single quarry in Scotland?), there really isn’t much to dislike.
Even the controls -- often a weak spot for Wii sports compilation games -- are rock solid, benefiting from a philosophy that clearly puts simplicity at the fore. Speed skating, for example, involves little more than rhythmic swooshing motions as players move the remote from side to side, while giant slalom has players putting remote and nunchuk together and tilting them left and right to turn as though they were skis. The Wii Balance Board makes some events -- like skiing -- even more intuitive. It’s a good bet for any family looking for a way to bring the Olympics into their home.
Online interaction: Not an issue.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Olympics. Do the Games make you feel more patriotic? Do you think they are successful in getting countries to set aside their differences and come together in the spirit of friendly competition?
Families can also discuss whether this interactive recreation of the Winter Games, with its very video game-ish look and feel, actually feels like the Olympics. Which did you enjoy more, the authentic sports or the fantastical dream events? From which countries do you suppose each of the game’s playable characters might hail?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.