Games: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games

As I mentioned in my post a couple days ago, my first experience playing the Wii was the Mario & Sonic Olympic Games – the Summer Games, that is. When I was at the library today to pick up some books, I noticed the rack of video games available, and promptly added Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games to my pile of materials to check out.

I was curious how in the world a Wii controller could be used to simulate skiing or skating. Some Wii games certainly approximate the physical moves of the real world better than others do. I didn’t like the way archery worked (in the Summer Games) at all. Unlike real archery, where the action of each hand is naturally linked by the physical bow that both are holding (one by the handle, the other by the string), in the Wii game you held the Wii controller in one hand and the nunchuk in the other. Real archery requires a steady hand to keep arrow pointed the right way, but the rest of it is physical strength, not trying to coordinate unrelated motions between your two hands.

The javelin throw (also in the Summer Games) made a lot more sense. A pumping motion with your hands (one holding the controller and the other the nunchuk) may not be the best simulation of running, but it makes sense – and does tire one out if you keep it up long enough. Then you have to time things right to stop and throw, and while strength doesn’t play a role at least it does feel like a throwing motion.

Swimming felt a lot like running, other than having to periodically press the B button to simulate taking a breath. I suppose any sport that requires alternating left and right feet – or hands – can be simulated by that pumping motion of the controller and nunchuk. But how would you do that for downhill skiing, where your feet stay largely in place as you glide downhill? Or bobsled racing, where your feet don’t move at all once you board the sled?

The winter sports turn out to be mostly about how to make turns. So the forward motion is pretty much taken for granted (after all, once you get on a steep slope, it doesn’t take much to get going downhill, it’s a matter of which way you go). The skill is in taking the turns well so obtain maximum speed – and certainly not going off the path and hitting barriers, which definitely slows you down.

So these games are not at all physically demanding. You stand in place with the Wii controller in front of your chest, and just turn it to one side  or the other to steer your character down the hill. I’m not saying it’s easy – I’ve yet to successfully finish “training” on the bobsled (though I succeeded with downhill skiing). Just that it doesn’t get my heart rate up at all.

From reviews I’ve read at amazon.com, the games are actually fairly easy to a lot of people. (With the balance board, which can be used with some of these games, it is more difficult. But I don’t have the balance board and don’t plan to get one – knowing my sense of balance I’d probably fall off it. I’ve already fallen off the Active Life mat just from trying to jump fast.) But I’ve said before that my balance and coordination are not very good.

So I think I’ll have fun with this – for the one week I get to keep it from the library. I wouldn’t go out and purchase it, but it’s a fun way to spend part of the Christmas break with my kids. (I’m still getting plenty of more physically demanding play with Active Life Explorer and Wii Sports. I even won two tennis matches this morning!)

And the Winter Games theme certainly fits well with all that snow outside.

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