Bumbling over the finish line with barely a bronze
The Good: Medley mode easily creates tournaments for friends, Lush locales of London to compete in, Some fun games… The Bad: …heavily outnumbered by shallow ones, Ridiculously dull plot, Deserves more multiplayer modes
In a world where humans scavenge for titbits of gossip about massive disputes, it’s nice that gaming’s original rivals have made peace with one another and get down to some friendly javelin chucking. Since 2008, a classic if somewhat mismatched duo have battled it out to steal Olympic golds from more humanoid noses. Now, with our very own Olympic event lined up, the world’s most famous plumber and fastest hedgehog compete once again in Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Gamings most famous colourful casts aren’t just here for vanity’s sake though. There is a story mode for the lonely to dig into, possibly to add a nice narrative depth to an unusual crossover event, possibly to add some form of surreal satire to Beijing’s weather crisis four years ago. Angered by their lack of invites to the Olympic opening ceremony, Bowser and Dr Eggman unleash a mysterious fog upon the whole country in a bid to stop the games from even happening. Even worse, mist based clones of the competitors are attempting to take out the real ones. Conveniently though, they’re the kind of foggy bad guys who seem to dissipate once they’ve been beaten at Judo or Synchronised Swimming, so the team of gaming icons attempt to clear up the country before it’s too late.
Blimming heck, why am I trying to attempt to justify the presence of the plot? It’s clear that it’s simply excessive and frankly unnecessary padding. Characters take eons to figure out who’s behind the misty evil, everybody constantly recounts facts that have been heavily implied ages ago and the eventual cliffhanger comes down to a tense discussion on admin errors.
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Get stuck straight into the selection of mini-games and you’re guaranteed to have more fun, though the selection of 50 trials are a rather mixed bag. It’s nice that Mario & Sonic utilises many of the 3DS’s features to its advantage, and when the game takes the opportunity to use the system to its advantage, it does so well. The hammer throw has you spinning the whole console around like you’re willing to snap your own wrists off before…letting go of the shoulder buttons (not letting the console fly). Setting off in Sailing events forces you to steer in conventional formats with the circle pad whilst blowing into the microphone to force wind upon the sails. Some concepts are weird and certain to get you in heaps of trouble on public transport, like having to time shouts into the microphone whilst weightlifting. However, it’s respectable how the game takes the consoles hardware and runs with it in some cases.
A small package of mild fun that seems to rest its laurels on the popularity of its cast than its activitiesHowever, the clever controls can’t get over the fact that a majority of the games here just feel shallow, and as such their inclusion just feels questionable. The 100m sprint may evoke simple mindless button mashing, but it fits. Attempt to partake in the Marathon mini-game, however, and the event will be dumbed down into a painfully slow water bottle pick-‘em-up segment. Attempting Badminton on your own simplifies the game down further, giving you a rather dull event where you must press A if you think the shuttlecock will land in the court, or dodge with the control pad should it land outside. Such tame inclusions simply dull what great games could’ve been included here. Although you may play one game for ages trying to nab golds from it, others will simply be played once and then swept under the carpet. Though simplicity makes the game very accessible, it also patronises most of the sports on offer so much that it makes them simply dull to sit through.
Gather up a few clear favourite games and connect up with some pals and you’re in for some laughs. No matter how old you are, it’s easy to become competitively absorbed when you’re intently focused on your best mini-game of the bunch. You can also create your own tournament style ‘Medleys’ to send to friends and see who reigns supreme. However, it still seems rather lacklustre, especially to its home console counterpart. A minority will be picked out as clear multiplayer favourites, and such a small collection will eventually grind with minimal means to spice them up. The Wii version brags fun party modes, and its a shame that such inclusions couldn’t be made for the 3DS instalment, resting entirely on the mixed bag of events.
Though most references to our capital are astonishingly blatant tourist propaganda, London has never looked so lush. When not doused in fog, you’ll be visiting some wonderfully recreated locales that may be basic in mimicry but look gloriously colourful nonetheless. The 3D effects may not bedazzle, but with the amount of movement you’ll be forced to partake in with your console, it’s probably a good thing it discourages eye popping play to discourage motion sickness. I only ever noticed text boxes leaping out at my pupils, but the games vibrant setting and characters do enough to add a suitably colourful flair. The game’s lucky I didn’t give it a low graphical rating thanks to its inclusion of the virtually epileptic Olympic logo.
Mario & Sonic At The London 2012 Olympic Games is a small package of mild fun that seems to rest its laurels on the popularity of its cast than its activities. Unfortunately, the lack of modes to really sink your teeth into along with a majority of tame titles to compete in means it falls short of its other Olympic attempts. Kids will most likely still love this crossover, shining in charms and bundled with hundreds of collectable badges that will keep them at least engaged. If you’re an avid Track ‘N’ Fieldadult fan, you might even steal away the 3DS in a bid to hoard every gold medal on offer. But with a collection of games that lack any addictive depth to them, it certainly won’t keep you occupied till the Olympics roll our way.