Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games Review
The original Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games on the Wii marked the first time the two gaming rivals appeared in the same game together, an event that many thought would never happen. Since then there’s also been Super Smash Bros. Brawl as well as a game based around the Winter Olympics. Last year saw the release of a Wii version of Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and now a stripped down version of the title comes to the Nintendo 3DS.
Featuring over fifty different mini-games, it’s not that surprising that what’s on offer is a bit of a mixed bag. Taking the portable 3DS format into consideration, Sega have felt the need to create much briefer experiences than the Wii counterpart. By making use of the console's multitude of functions the developers have managed to create quite a diverse selection of different game types. Quite a few of the games are actually quite entertaining, in particular the games that feel as though there’s more skill to them. The archery and shooting games, where players take aim with the gyroscope work well and feel almost like a simpler version of the archery in Wii Sports Resort. Other games such as hockey also require relatively careful character movement as players pass the puck by the opposing team before hitting for goal. There’s also the combat games like Taekwondo that require careful timing if you’re to knock down the opponent.
However, it has to be said that all of the games on display here are not as enjoyable. Swimming has you using your thumbs on the touch screen to gain speed and just feels as though the control is very loose. Weightlifting by shouting or blowing into the 3DS microphone is probably the worst offender in terms of shoe-horning in the portable’s features with no gameplay benefit at all. Some of the games which utilise the 3DS’s motion abilities also feel quite strange as shooting a hoop in basketball, whilst functional, will make you look a little ridiculous should you be playing out in the real world.
Game modes are much more simplified compared to their Wii counterparts. Football is reduced to simple penalty taking, rather than having a five-a-side game of the actual full game and hockey has players running along a set path, without any freedom of movement. Although Sega were obviously going for adding as many different games as possible, perhaps it would have been more effective to have maybe a third of the amount of types of game, albeit more fully featured as beyond getting gold medals on all the difficulties there isn’t really any reason to replay the less enjoyable events.
There’s little time to get acquainted with the controls before a game, with only a brief and unhelpful control guide on the bottom screen introducing how you’ll perform certain tasks. Some games like the previously mentioned Taekwondo can be a little frustrating at first as there’s a clear scoring system happening, yet you can get knocked down and lose the game despite being five points in the lead. It doesn’t help that there’s not much consistency between games as the different archery games use either gyroscope or stylus controls, which makes little sense at all. There’s also no freedom to select what characters you may want to play as, rather you are confined to a pool of characters depending on the game. For example, there’s a ‘Heroes’ selection in which you can choose Mario, Luigi, Sonic or Tails. When competing in a Medley match, players must pick one character from each different pool of characters which doesn’t really make any sense. Surely the appeal of a game like this is to play as your favourite characters all the time instead of being forced to pick from a selection of personalities you don’t like at all.
Although players who are after a pick-up and play experience will likely just dive straight into the mini-games themselves, either individually or a Medley match which groups various events together, there’s also a story mode to dive into. On the eve of the London Olympics, Bowser and Dr. Eggman decide they need to sabotage the games, and it’s up to Mario, Sonic and co. to beat shadow versions of themselves in order to ensure the Olympics go ahead as planned. In order to progress through chapters you must acquire a gold medal in a certain amount of events, and upon completion several extra chapters unlock. To be honest I’m not entirely sure what purpose the mode serves as this type of game doesn’t need cut scenes wedged in to create any sense of narrative. Clocking at around four hours, the story mode feels a little overdrawn for what will for many be a pre-selected introduction to the events available to play.
There is some replay value to be had with the game, as there’s a badge system in which earning medals or waiting for time to pass earns the player tickets to buy a badge which can be used as part of a player card in a similar manner to the recent Call of Duty games and Super Street Fighter IV. Many tickets are earned through various challenges the game has set, which can be checked off as the badge collection shows what needs to be done in order to obtain each one. There are three difficulties to each event in which you can earn gold, silver or bronze medals and going for top prize will also keep some players coming back for more, although there isn’t anything really gained by obtaining gold on each difficulty as everything other than the badges are all unlocked from the beginning. For the more competitive player there is a local multiplayer option, as well as online leaderboards to see just how bad you are in comparison to everyone else in the world. Custom medley match line-ups can be traded locally as well, although bizarrely a StreetPass function for this feature isn’t included.
The general presentation of the game is clean and vibrant. The in-game visuals are comparable to Mario Kart 7 with crisp, colourful characters and environments. Playing in 3D mode isn’t recommended as games like basketball and fencing, which make use of the gyroscope, break the effect causing the action to degrade into a blurred mess. The music unfortunately doesn’t feature any of the classic Mario or Sonic tracks, opting for a more generic score which is pretty forgettable. Character voices are as charming or annoying as you find them in other games with these characters as most of the voice samples are ripped straight out of other titles.
Overall, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games suffers from the same problems as so many other mini-game collections do. The sheer amount of games on offer sounds impressive on paper, but the amount of redundant or just flat-out not fun events brings the game down as a whole. There’s a handful of addictive little games that had they been expanded on would have made the game feel like more of a complete package rather than just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. The game is by no means awful, it just isn’t really what Mario and Sonic really deserve. Players who are looking for a deeper experience won’t find enough meat in this game, but for those looking for simple bite-sized chunks of gaming could do worse.