By Miguel Concepcion
You wake up one day and before you know it, the 'Mario & Sonic Olympic Games' series is at its fourth installment. While Nintendo and Sega's take on the Sochi 2014 games isn't due out until November 2013, the publisher was eager to give us a hands-on preview of a couple events.
With another games writer and two Nintendo spokespeople present, trying out the four-person bobsleigh was a given. It's an event that warrants multiple playthroughs and different seating combination since the player at the front of the sled gets the most out of the experience. It is certainly a group effort, though the gamepad-wielding player in front has a notably larger responsibility with how the sled turns. The course gives adequate warning of incoming turns and has something you can't get in the real life Winter Olympics: speed pads.
The challenge comes in maximizing the turns and being in sync with your three buddies. Any friends not participating get the amusing pleasure of seeing four of people standing in a row, making silly faces of concentratin as they negotiate turns and lean in sync. I just hope none of the other Nintendo hosts were taking pictures of me.
The fantastical nature of this 'Mario & Sonic' series is best exemplified in its multi-surface downhill competition. The course is an intimidating mix of ice and snow surfaces and you have to pick the gear that suits you best. To mix things up even further, you're not committed to the gear your start with at the beginning of the race. The course is laid with multiple gates where you have chance to change your gear without breaking your downhill momentum. Using a snowboard but see a ton of ice in the horizon? Just choose the ice-skate path at the next gate, and bam, you're wearing ice skates! It's an interesting, and even practical way to "remix" snow events. It's chaotic enough that it's a mixed blessing the race doesn't include 'Mario Kart'-style weapons and power-ups.
With five months to go before release, Sega and Nintendo has their work cut out for them as this preview build could use considerable polish. Hopefully we'll have opportunities to see improvements before November. We'd also like an excuse to try out other events, especially curling.