If you like your fat Italian plumbers, speedy blue hedgehogs and sports-themed mini-games, then the latest announcement from Sega and Nintendo will be right up your street. It may be quite a mouthful, but Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games carries on from where the series left off on the Wii, this time taking the sports-based minigame collection onto the snowy slopes of Sochi for it's first outing on the Wii U. The first of three Nintendo-only Sonic games in the works for the Wii U, Mario & Sonic will hopefully mark the beginning of a turn-around of fortunes for the struggling console – after all, it was the easy to pick up and play mini-game collections that helped make the Wii a household name.
We know our geography skills are sorely lacking (we used to think Copenhagen was in Egypt. Seriously), so it was no surprise that we'd never even heard of Sochi, let alone being able to find it on a map. Located on the south western side of Russia, Sochi also happens to be one of the warmest spots in the entire country, with an average winter temperature of 11 degrees – when we think of Russia, we think of snow drifts ten foot deep, massive beards and angry bears, not your average English summers day. As such, it seems a bit of a strange spot to hold your winter Olympics, what with all the snow and ice-related sports that usually take place.
Of course in the virtual worlds of Mario and Sonic, such trifling things as climate don't matter – after all, virtual snowflakes can't melt. What Nintendo have shown off so far doesn't really look all that drastically different to what's come before – many of the old favourites return, such as tobogganing, skiing and snowboarding, just with a slightly fancier graphical lick of paint. What is of more interest though is that this iteration will make much greater use of the Wii Motion Plus peripheral, with it being required for stuff like downhill snowboard races, whilst other games such as curling use the Wii U GamePad's Touch Screen. New events include pair figure skating and a biathlon that combines cross-country skiing and rifle range shooting, as well as the now series staple Dream Events, which offer a crazy twist on traditional Olympic events set in levels themed around the Mario and Sonic universes. There's also a new mixed event, which sees you hopping between skiing, skating and bobsleigh in a single continuous race.
At the moment, Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympics has only been confirmed for the Wii U, although we'd be very surprised if Sega were to break a habit of a lifetime and not release it on a Nintendo handheld too. And while we have no concrete release date, we'd imagine it'll launch around October this year, several months before the actual Olympic Games kick off in February – that was how it worked for the previous winter Olympics tie-in, anyway.