Mario Sports Mix
Perhaps Mario should stick to platform-jumping.
In his traditional arena -- most recently exemplified by New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2 -- he's nigh unbeatable, an instant passport to critical and
commercial success. But his latest extra-curricular release, Mario Sports Mix, sees him tackling hockey, volleyball, basketball, and
dodgeball, and it's getting a surprisingly muted set of review scores.
How muted? It's averaging 67% as of the time of writing, and considering Galaxy 2 hit a stellar 97% overall, that's a low mark for one of video gaming's best-known faces.
Maybe it's the new developer. Rather than handling it in-house, Nintendo
outsourced Sports Mix to Square Enix, better known for the Final
Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series. Or maybe it's a sign that critics
were hoping for more single-player depth to the game -- there's a clear
consensus that you really need a few friends on tap to see the game at
Eurogamer tipped hockey as the best of the Sports Mix offerings, saying it's "almost as
fast and violent as the actual sport," while volleyball and dodgeball
are "pretty weak." Like most critics, they're pretty down on the
single-player action, calling the computer opponents "incredibly
stupid," your teammates "braindead," and the opening challenges
"fist-eatingly boring." Fortunately, the multiplayer clearly goes some
way to redeem the game: "four people, two-on-two, Basketball and Hockey
are as good as any Mario sport since Tennis or Strikers," says
Eurogamer, giving it a 7/10.
Unfortunately, that's one of its better scores. Slamming it as "lazy and patronisingly simplistic," Metro agrees that hockey is the pick of the bunch, but doles out a
disappointing 5/10. Calling its controls "slick and intuitive," they
neverless continue "it sacrifices too much in terms of depth, just for
the novelty of the over-the-top special shot." And overall, there's an
obvious sense of disappointment at its shallow gameplay: "The Mario
sports games used to be deceptively deep simulations," Metro writes,
"[and] unfortunately this isn't hiding anything."
Also Out Now:
Popular strategy series Westward is headed for new pastures this week: instead
of the Wild West, it's off to a fantasy-themed world of swords, sorcery,
and dragons. Two (rather spoiled) royal children have been banished to
opposite ends of the realm, challenged with proving to the king that
they're worthy of their royal inheritance.
You Don't Know Jack
Platforms: X360, Wii, DS, PS3, PC
It might not be such a good week for Mario fans, but it's certainly a
good one for the many devotees of storied quiz game series You Don't
Know Jack. After an eight-year absence, it's returning this week across
just about every platform, and at an attractive price of under $40,
although some online stores have it at less than $30. You don't
need to know Jack to know that's a good deal.
Mystery of Mortlake Mansion
Half hidden-object and half puzzler, this beautifully designed magic-themed tale is gathering rave reviews. Can you escape the curse of its mysterious mansion?
Test Drive Unlimited 2
Platforms: X360, PS3, PC
If the snow's getting you down, here's your chance for a virtual vacation
in the sun. The latest in the long-running Test Drive series launches
this week, and like its predecessor, its exotic driving action takes
place in the equally exotic surroundings of Hawaii's islands. Sun, sand,
sea, speed, luxurious convertible sports cars: all the things you've
been missing this winter. Unless, of course, you already live in Hawaii
and drive a convertible sports car, in which case Test Drive probably
doesn't have too much to offer you.
Body and Brain Connection
Platforms: X360 Kinect
Think of this as Brain Age for the Kinect: it's even boasting the involvement
of neurophysiologist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, the big brain behind
Nintendo's hit DS series. Ars Technica called it "uneven" in an early-look piece, but we're looking forward to getting our hands on its four-player mode.