Mario, Sonic and co. are headed to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and it's a trip that may be better with friends.
We visited the Nintendo booth to play the E3 demo of Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, which included three of the events from the upcoming minigame collection: Snowboard Cross, a downhill snowboarding course; Four-Man Bobsleigh, a cooperative bobsledding experience; and Winter Sports Championship Race, a solo combination of a few different sports.
All the events suffered from a noticeably poor frame rate, especially when the on-screen action got busy. And each game required the use of motion controls, whether with the Wii U GamePad or a Wii Remote Plus, and the controls didn't feel nearly responsive enough to make the games enjoyable. We'd sometimes be holding our Wii Remote all the way to the left or right, and our character wouldn't be turning much more than when we were holding the controller a few degrees off due north.
That's a problem in and of itself, but it was additionally unfortunate because Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games has some interesting course design that could actually be fun with more precise controls. Grinding on certain rails shoots you forward faster than your opponents, but there's a narrow window in which you can get on the rails. The same applies for the speed boost patches on the bobsled track.
The bobsled minigame was the best of the bunch, primarily because it uses the GamePad's buttons in a way that requires skill. You have to properly time the process of hopping into the sled, and then hammer on the ZL and ZR buttons to build up speed as you launch yourself into the track. As you tilt the GamePad to steer, you can tap the triggers to make find adjustments to your direction.
Four-Man Bobsleigh supports as many as four players in co-op. While the other two games didn't appear to have much potential, and we weren't able to play the bobsledding minigame with multiple players, it seemed like that one could be the most fun and interesting experience when played cooperatively. Asking four people to move as one is at the heart of the sport of bobsledding, and although this game isn't about replicating a sport closely, its bobsledding minigame was interesting enough as a solo experience to make us want to try it in co-op.
Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games is set for release this November.