No one who picks up the Wii Remote and Nunchuk for a spin at Mario Sports Mix should expect an accurate simulation of sports, but that doesn't mean it's not fun to form a triumvirate of bad guys and kick those self-righteous plumbers and princesses to the curb. Once you score a few hundred goals/points and toss dozens of bombs and banana peels, though, the game starts to feel a little thin.
Even though this game uses first party IP, it wasn't actually developed by Nintendo. Square Enix could certainly have presented Mario Sports Mix like similar compilations Wii Sports Resort and Wii Plays without any preamble, but there is a story of sorts that explains exactly how the fictional characters of the Mushroom Kingdom are playing games with sporting equipment invented on Earth. When you fire up a tournament, a short cutscene shows how a meteor fell outside Princess Peach's Palace. Little mushroom dudes run up to find four jewels inside the crater containing a basketball, a golden hockey puck, a volleyball and a dodgeball (which looks pretty much like a volleyball but hey, who's counting?). The shallow story doesn't explain much, and it can be skipped to get to the action.
Each sport plays differently, but I appreciated that details stayed consistent throughout. The characters have different stats: The bigger guys like Donkey Kong are slow but powerful, while small guys like Yoshi or Toad are quick and tricksy. Each character also has a consistent special move like Bowser breathing a massive fireball and Wario chucking a gas bomb. If you opt to use your Mii, your stats are of the "all-around" jack of all trades/master of none variety with no option to change or increase them, which seems like a missed opportunity. Mario Sports Mix might have been a better game if there was a better sense of progression than just unlocking arenas and a few incongruous Final Fantasy characters. Seriously, it feels more like a punishment than a reward to get to play as a Moogle.
As in Mario Kart, hitting a question mark box will give you a random toy like a green shell or a coin. Collecting coins is important in each sport because they are added to your points when you score so if you, say, hit a three-pointer in basketball, and you have two coins, you will actually gain 5 points. If you get hit with a toy like a homing red shell, then you drop your coins. I liked that players were rewarded for having a superior tactics; you want to hit Luigi with a shell to make him drop those 5 coins before he scores a goal. It's double plus good if you can grab his coins before you score your own goal and inflate your score.
The core mechanic for each sport is to shake the Wii Remote. You use that to shoot the basketball, slap the puck, throw the ball or spike it across the net. I get the fact that Nintendo wants to justify its motion control in all of the games it publishes for the Wii, but my wrist got tired after playing only a short while. You can eschew the Nunchuk-Wii Remote combo and play the game with the Wii Remote turned sideways but I found that just as uncomfortable as the constant shaking. Meh.