sore thumbs

February 17th, 2011 |
By Matthew Scott Hunter

‘Mario Sports Mix’ (E)

Mario ends up mediocre




Recently, I dug up my old copy of “Tetris DS” and played “Endless Mode.” When I reached the highest possible speed, I found I had no trouble placing the falling blocks exactly where I wanted them, but the game kept going, so I considered intentionally screwing up simply to give myself something to do. “Mario Sports Mix” is a lot like that. Whether you’re playing hockey, basketball, dodgeball or volleyball, a perfect defense requires only the smallest amount of competence and the ability to waggle one’s wrist (a lot). In basketball, an easily timed button press can block any shot, and in volleyball, a target appears precisely where you need to stand in order to successfully return the volley. To make the game the least bit interesting, you pretty much have to intentionally allow the A.I. or second player to score.


Despite his small stature and pot belly, Mario is quite the athlete and has appeared in many of Nintendo’s sports games over the years, typically with the addition of wacky power-ups, and often with satisfying results. But with its overabundance of silly moves, “Mario Sports Mix” feels more like “Mario Party” than a sports game, except in this version of the portly plumber’s party game, the mini-games stretch on for far too long, and victory depends on the opposing player’s fatigue and/or boredom. The Wii has too many sports games for you to make time for one this mediocre, and the Wii has too many party games…period.


‘You Don’t Know Jack’ (T)



Xbox 360

It’s been more than a decade since gamers last had their intelligence insulted by a sarcastic quiz game, but “You Don’t Know Jack” is finally back with a fresh batch of questions that are as challenging as any “Jeopardy!” clue and as hilarious as any lewd stand-up comic. You’ll be tasked to figure out which Jennifer Aniston movie title best describes the relationship between neutrons and electrons, and then you’ll be asked to sort through a list of names, determining which ones belong to ranch dressings and which ones to Nevada brothels. “Jack” is definitely worth getting to know.


‘Spare Parts’ (E10+)


Electronic Arts

Xbox Live Arcade

Much like “Pikmin,” “Spare Parts” has your silent protagonist stranded on an alien world, searching for spaceship components with the help of the vessel’s friendly A.I. (this time voiced by “Shaun of the Dead’s” Simon Pegg). But unlike “Pikmin,” the gameplay here is uninventive 3D platforming. The fixed camera can make jump distances hard to gauge, so you’ll likely lose quite a few of the robot hero’s unlimited lives. Jet boots and nanite gloves are just renamed versions of upgrades you’ve tracked down in similar games. In fact, the whole enterprise feels like it was cobbled together from the spare parts of other platformers.


‘Zeit Squared’ (E)



Xbox Live Arcade

“Zeit Squared” is another one of those sidescrolling shooters that throws more enemies at you than you know what to do with. Only this time, you have help. And that help…is you! In a clever twist, the game allows you to travel a few seconds backwards in time, so you can assist yourself in vaporizing all the enemies you missed a few seconds earlier. The gimmick’s enough to salvage an otherwise bland shooter. CV