Character icons appear at the bottom of the screen, indicating which way each player is leaning and whether they're in synch with everyone else. The best possible racing line is shown on the track as a line of shiny chevrons. It's fun trying to follow it and shouting at your team-mates when they fail to keep up. Whether you'll want more than a few goes is questionable, though - the gameplay is extremely simple and there's no potential for comedy crashes, so it all becomes familiar very quickly.
Plus, as with the other events, you can't help wondering why they didn't include any Mario Kart-style power-ups. Wouldn't it be great to trip up the skier you're racing against with a banana skin, for example? According to Iikuza, that's what the Dream Events are there for. As in the previous game these will feature all manner of weapons and power-ups to muck about with. There's no word on what Dream Events the sequel will include, however.
So it's on to the DS game instead. This time around, it's set to be quite different from its Wii counterpart. There are separate development teams following separate design plans, and the idea is that more consumers will be incentivised to buy both versions.
SEGA is also hoping to boost sales of the DS game by changing the download sharing options. With just one cartridge, up to four players can try out all the Olympic and Dream events. Which is very generous, but aren't they worried everyone will just share instead of buying their own copies?
"Actually I wanted to make all the events available for free download last time, but because of time constraints it was difficult," says producer Eigo Kasahara. "With this version, maybe players will bring the cartridge to school and play with their friends. Then kids will go home and ask their Mum to buy them a copy... So it's a kind of viral marketing almost."
As with the Wii version, the complete list of events in the game has yet to be revealed. But we're allowed to try out Snowboard Cross, a racing game played using the DS's buttons and d-pad. It's tricky to get the hang of taking corners at first, and more advanced players have the challenge of learning how to drift and pull off fast starts. However, it doesn't take more than a couple of goes to start winning races with ease.
The other event on show is Skeleton Board. This involves racing down a bobsleigh run on a body board-style sledge. You scrub the stylus backwards and forwards on the touch-screen to get a run-up, then swipe upwards to jump on. Touching left and right steers the sledge, and if you're feeling fancy you can keep the stylus held in place then swipe upwards again for a speed boost. As with the Wii bobsleigh game it's all about finding the best racing line.
It's clear that there's an even greater emphasis on accessibility and multiplayer fun in both the Wii and DS games. The instructions preceding each event are simpler, and you can skip information about the more complex gameplay elements if it's likely to confuse people. The ability to play all the events from the start is a definite plus, as is the option to play all the Wii mini-games with remotes only if you don't have enough nunchuks. It's also great that just one DS cartridge is required for the full multiplayer experience.
The question remains as to whether there's enough depth here to appeal to more hardcore gamers. The events may be designed to work on two levels, but it's hard to tell how effective this will be in practice having played only a handful of them, and only with other experienced gamers.
The fact is that gaming has changed, like it or not, and not everybody is looking for a serious challenge. Some people just want to muck about for a few hours with a game even the very young, old or drunk can play without getting frustrated. And here's what we discovered about curling: it may not be proper exercise, and it may make you look stupid, but it takes real skill to be really good at it. What's more, even if you're completely rubbish, it's fantastic fun.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is due out for Wii and DS this coming winter.