Game: Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games
Available on: Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS (Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS)
When I was younger, there was one game that caused more damage to my digits than any other, Track & Field 2 on the NES. Tapping the B & A buttons as fast as you can would be an exhausting and blister-forming experience every time; but that game (along with the joystick-waggling fury of Daley Thompson’s Supertest) gave me the skills that I’ve used throughout my gaming career.
It’s over two decades later, and I return to the field as SEGA bring their third instalment to the Mario & Sonic series to the Nintendo 3DS, the first time on the system. Let’s see if it holds up to the button-mashers and joystick-wagglers of yesteryear.
STORY: You’d think that a game based on the London 2012 Olympic Games would have no story whatsoever, however (for some reason), SEGA have ensured that this is not the case, by adding a Story mode to the game as Dr. Robotnik (I refuse to call him Eggman) and Bowser are fuming at being left out of the Olympic Games (to be fair, they probably didn’t want to take part in the ridiculous ticket raffling).
In a display of childlike behaviour, both evil-doers have decided to sabotage the Olympics by installing fog machines everywhere that churn out all sorts of colourful foggyness. Surely the Olympics can’t go ahead with so much fog? At least Mario, Sonic and all of their annoying companions are here to save the day; by challenging the bad guys and their minions to Olympic events. Seriously.
The story is split up into episodes, each one containing several challenges to choose from, consisting of one or more Olympic events. When enough challenges have been completed, the player moves on to the next episode.
While the Story mode is a good idea to add a little extra to what could have been a bare-bones collection of mini-ganes, the cut-scenes in between episodes suffer from the same problem that most Sonic cut-scenes suffer from: over-exposure to Sonic’s annoying band of rubbish friends. These scenes are irritating, overly long and get in the way of the whole experience. Luckily, these scenes can be skipped; but once you’ve done that, what’s the point of the Story Mode?
GRAPHICS: Not much to report on the graphical front. It’s as bright and colourful as you would expect from a game featuring Mario & Sonic, with bold characters and tons of colour. The 3D isn’t particularly noticeable most of the time, although the Nintendo 3DS’s ability to display mist is essential in this game (I’m not being sarcastic here, the 3DS has a chip dedicated to fog effects, that works pretty well here). To be honest, you’ll be too busy performing in the events to actually notice the visuals.
AUDIO: Plenty of Sonic-style tracks are the order of the day here; bouncy tunes and the usual Mario & Sonic-style sound effects. The cut-scenes in the game’s Story mode lack dialogue, apart from irritating snippets of speech from each character whenever they speak; clips that are repeated so often it makes you want to punch something. In the face.
Nothing here is particularly memorable, but other than the voice clips; nothing here is particularly offensive to the ears either.
GAMEPLAY: At it’s core, Mario & Sonic is a collection of over 50 mini-games, based on a multitude of Olympic events. It would be pretty easy to make every one of these events an exercise in button-mashing, but to SEGA’s credit, they have made a very good effort in ensuring that all of the 3DS’s physical abilities are used. Some events use basic button inputs, some use touch screen (finger and stylus) input while others put the Nintendo 3DS’s tilt functionality to good use. These different kinds of input work well and ensure that the events have a sense of uniqueness to them.
However, for some ungodly reason; some mini-games expect you to blow into the microphone, with no alternative input method or ability to skip these events in Story mode. Developers should have learnt from the original Nintendo DS, that no-one wants to blow into their console in public. Ever.
There are plenty of events here; some are enjoyable for a little while, but some are an absolute chore to play (I would liken the Wrestling event to being as enjoyable as picking the insides of my ears out with a Biro).
Due to the fact that these events are all relatively short, this is the kind of game that works well when on the move, it’s very easy to pick up your 3DS, play an event and then put your system back down again. These are simple games that would feel right at home on a smartphone (Which isn’t an insult to either the game, or smartphones).
MULTIPLAYER: SEGA have included local play for up to four players, using one cartridge shared between consoles, or a cartridge for each system. It would have been nice to have a multiplayer mode where one system could be passed between players, but what we have here is functional enough for those who have other friends with Nintendo 3DS consoles. There is also Online Rankings for your best times/scores.
LONGEVITY: As mentioned before, there are tons of events contained within the game. The problem is that none of these mini-games are deep or addictive enough to keep your interest for more than a couple of plays. It’s pretty easy to break the game’s default records, so all we are left with is the game’s Story Mode, which takes only a few hours to finish. Unfortunately it’s just the nature of this type of game; while I commend SEGA for adding the Story mode to jazz the game up a little, it’s just not enough.
VERDICT: It’s hard to judge a game like Mario & Sonic At The London 2012 Olympic Games. There are tons of mini-games here, and a few of them are fun for a couple of plays. But the whole package is distinctively average, with nothing to really spark interest in players. It’s a worthy update to the Track & Fields and Decathlons of old, but in this day and age; there is simply not enough depth here.
If you are looking for a casual gaming fix, you may find some enjoyment here but Olympic fans may want to look elsewhere (Maybe to SEGA’s upcoming serious London 2012 Olympics game, perhaps?)