Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games Review

by on December 9, 2011

Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games ReviewGame: Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games

Developer: SEGA Sports Japan

Publisher: Nintendo/SEGA

Available On: Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS (Reviewed on Nintendo Wii)

Despite our country, and indeed the entire “Eurozone” (shudder) being on the cusp of socio-economic crisis, and with protests, the “occupy” movement and the recent spate of rioting which ended in Croydon resembling Basra, we have the London 2012 Olympic Games to look forward to. For a few weeks, the infrastructure of our fair capital will be stretched to the limit as athletes from all over the globe descend to participate in a myriad of sporting events, with a view to obtaining the ultimate prize – the Gold Medal. What this means for you or I is massive disruption in television schedules until the men’s 100m final takes place, which is the only bit anyone wants to watch anyway.

It’s only natural that there be videogame tie-ins for the event, and given their previous form, it was inevitable that the Blue Blur and the cheeky Italian plumber would once again be called into sporting action. The question is, does this new IOC-approved Olympic offering bring anything new to the table, or is it just another rehash from Sega Sports Japan designed to shift some units?

Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games - Freestyle

It is still one of the biggest missed opportunities in gaming history, that when Sega and Nintendo first allowed their platform colossi Sonic and Mario to co-exist in a videogame, it was in a sports party thrash aimed squarely at kids. However, as disappointing as that was, the first Mario & Sonic Olympiad crossover was a fun family diversion, and obviously sold well enough, as it went on to spawn a Vancouver Winter Olympics-themed sequel. That was more of the same, a collection of sporting minigames with a distinctly whimsical approach.

Like the prior entries in the series, this new instalment has a selection of events (30 in total) that give cartoony approximations of the sports that they represent. The different events are split into three types, quick-time events, skill, and speed, and by “speed” this normally means frantic controller shaking. A bit like Mario Kart, the Mario & Sonic games have different classes of character to accommodate the three different styles of event so there are speedsters like our boy Sonic, power players like Dr Eggman and all-rounders like Mario.

With there being such a wide range of events, there are as many hits as there are misses. There are also some pleasant surprises which I was not expecting.

Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games - Badminton

There are mundane inclusions like the quick-time event trampolining, and the watery likes of rowing (which can be done co-operatively with a friend) and swimming, which uses a nunchuk and remote combo to mimic the arm movements needed in order to propel yourself forward in the water. If you want to let go of some aggression, and dislocate your limbs in the process, then the crazy controller-shakers, such as the sprint events will be right up your street. Some of the new events are highly interesting. Soccer is a version of the sport played out in the over-the-top tradition of a Mario Strikers or a Fighting Soccer, and great fun can be had darting around, inflicting unpunished horror tackles that would give Ben Thatcher nightmares. Badminton is excellent, reminiscent of Nintendo’s Mario Tennis titles and made all the more spicy when you factor in the individual power ups available to the 20 characters. You haven’t lived until you have seen Mario aim a flaming shuttlecock at Waluigi. Beach Volleyball, a sport that someone at the IOC only included in the Olympics so that men can watch the Brazilian ladies, is another winner. Don’t expect to see Princess Peach flashing Copacabana Beach levels of flesh though.

Other events suffer due to a lack of finesse. Amazingly, there is no support for Wii MotionPlus, meaning that some of the events lack the accuracy that it would have given. When you are randomly flashing the remote about during a game of table tennis, or wishing that you could steer your horse in Equestrianism using the superior motion sensitivity so perfectly implemented in the recent Zelda and Wii Play titles, it is a crushing disappointment. Fencing would have been awesome with Wii MotionPlus! I could cry myself to sleep at what might have been, but I won’t.

There are some positives however, the game looks terrific, with cutesy representations of London, and the official Olympic venues, and the usual vibrant array of cross-company characters doing their thing in the events. Sonically there are lots of classic themes that will be instantly recognisable, including some funky remixes. The multiplayer modes are excellent, particularly the London Party mode, which borrows a little from the Mario Party series, and has you careering around London competing in a series of events, including Dream Events. Ahhh, Dream Events, another winning addition, these are even more unrealistic minigames that are set in various locales including stages based upon previous Sonic and Mario games. Rather than doing a 100m sprint or some other track and field event, the Dream versions have you doing things like hopping between clouds in a race up in the sky, or surfing along collecting rings.

Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games - Cycling

Speaking of collecting, there are a ton of unlockables, from musical compositions to new gear for your Mii to wear. In a nod to Broken Britain, the content is unlocked by collecting scratchcards. You couldn’t make this up.

VERDICT: This game isn’t anything like an accurate Olympic sim, you can tell this straight away, it is in a bright yellow box with Mario on it for goodness sake. It is however, a decent party sports title that will be tremendous fun for the children, or in the family situations that often arise during these festive times. As a single player experience it is limited and there are a number of events that you will be unlikely to want to play again. The lack of MotionPlus support is a crime, as I genuinely think I would have been inclined to spend more time in cartoon Olympic-land if there was more intuitive controls than just waving the Wiimotes in the air.

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