Mario Sports Superstars is the latest spin-off game involving everyone’s favourite Italian plumber and his pals, as they compete in five sporting events – baseball, football, tennis, golf and horse racing; drawing on past titles such as Mario Superstar Baseball, Super Mario Strikers, Mario Tennis and Mario Golf. The events are full-scale recreations of the actual sports, and each one has single player tournaments, local multiplayer, and online multiplayer game modes.
You can select which sport you want to play from the game’s main menu and learn the fundamentals of that said sport. Navigating in and out of each sport and through sub menus is swift, simple and without long loading times. There are single player and Multiplayer modes for each event, with some also having a training option, how to play and stats section. Multiplayer gives you the option to play nearby opponents, friends online or other players across the globe.
Having selected horse riding, the game teaches you how to increase your horse’s speed, how to jump and dash. Dashing repeatedly makes your horse move faster but tires your horse out. To get your horses stamina back you can either collect up items or use the herd effect. This means using the herd to recover or keep your stamina. The radar on the bottom of the screen shows where all the horses are. The colour of the herd depends on the strength of the herd, with the colours denoting the strength: Yellow is high, green is medium and blue is low; the more horses in the herd, the faster you regain or keep your stamina.
The courses are dotted with power-ups to collect, such as stars and carrots, much like the ones found in Mario Kart. Collecting five stars this fills up your star gauge and gives you star dash to use. Carrots fill up your horse’s stamina. I learned it was best to save the star dash for the last stretch, otherwise, it doesn’t matter how large a lead you have you will be overtaken. Landing the top positions gives you coins and opens further courses and different horses to use.
The event also has a stable mode, which is reminiscent of Nintendogs. You can take your horses out for walks, dress them up, bond with them, pet, wash and feed them. The reward for putting the time into your stable means that your horse gets better at racing. The horse riding event reminded me of Mario kart, as tactics can be employed whilst racing and the controls are very similar, making this event easy to get to grips with.
As with horse riding, the controls for this event are easy to learn. Again there are single and multiplayer modes. Progression is based on advancing through quarters, semi-finals and finals of a golfing tournament. When playing your shot, you not only have to learn to play but you must also consider the wind and rain factors, which will affect your shot. The load screen shows the hole number and the par shots, the wind direction and speed. Changing clubs will change your shot trajectory and distance depending on which club you use. The courses gradually increase in difficulty, which gives golfing novices as much chance as a virtual pro.
I found tennis to be very addictive, as having learned the controls it was easy to have a good rally with an opponent. As with any tennis game ever, you’re required to play the required number of sets to win. Like golf, there are quarters, semi-finals and then the final. Once you’re used to playing you can learn pro-tips in the how to play section. With each tournament, you play three rounds and you can get the camera replay after your winning shot. Even though horse riding was my favourite sport, tennis was a very close second.
Baseball was by far the hardest sport to play, due to having to learn how to both pitch and field, how to aim and pitch the ball, along with special pitches when the SP bar is filled. After you have mastered pitching you then go on to learn to bat. Teams are then selected from a pool of talent – your captain, vice-captain and then the rest of the roster. Once you have selected your team there’s the option to then save them as your team. Gameplay is very much a mini version of baseball, you play off against teams until you have all batted and fielded, all the while hoping to score that all-important home run.
Gameplay revolves around dribble, dribble dash, pass, shoot a goal, shoot over other players and special shots. As with baseball you then pick you team, although there aren’t as many options to pick from as there were in the baseball team selection; although there is still the option to save your team for future use. Gameplay mirrors its real-life counterpart, apart from not having to try and take the ball from your opponent, but rather needing to run one of your players in front of the opposing character who has the ball and you’ve taken it. I should say out of all the sports I liked this one the least because even when you followed controls or set up free players, the ball did not go where you wanted it to, even though you have followed all the controls you during the tutorial.
Mario Sports Superstars’ graphics are what you’d expect of a Mario franchise game – bright, welcoming and of a high standard. I was disappointed that sports were not different or new, as the game is more of a compendium of older, standalone titles mentioned at the top of this review. The sounds in-game are not as good as the graphics, and I found the music to be overly repetitive – if you are easily annoyed or distracted by these monotonous ditties, there are no sounds settings, forcing you to turn the volume down manually. Overall, Mario Sports Superstars is worth a go in shorter sessions, as the “mini-game” approach lends itself to times when you have a few hours spare to concentrate on gaming.