Mario & Sonic At The London Olympic Games 3DS Review
As has become tradition, this year’s Olympic games have brought with it a new edition of Mario & Sonic. Perhaps disappointingly, the famous duo venture nowhere near Soho and don’t even bump into a Vinnie Jones-esque gun wielding madman. Instead, they mess about doing ‘sport’, possibly missing the point of London entirely (or so I’m led to believe).
There are over 50 different events on offer, and while there are some duds, a fair majority are interesting to play. Thankfully, the time needed to taking part in every event has been condensed, as you wouldn’t want to spend a couple of hours completing a marathon. Instead, the game picks up on the final stretch of each event as you see your chosen athlete to victory. Mario & Sonic gives a quick burst of each event, and then hurries you onto the next one. The main bulk of the game is playlists of quick mini-games that flow best in rapid succession. In it’s stride, this game can be likened to a WarioWare title in that respect. This approach works for a handheld game beautifully, as it is best played in shorter bursts.
Inventive use has been made of the 3DS’s control options. Some sports have one or two button control schemes and depend all on timing. Others bring in the touch screen and gyrosensor with reasonable success. One event may have you tracing patterns on the touch screen to speed up your swimming stroke, while the next may be telling you to spin the system (in a motion similar to rolling a marble around on top of it) to charge up a hammer toss. There is also even variety in play styles between similar activities (for example, the shooting events are all completely different to play). While there is the odd event that takes a little bit of practice to fully understand, most are simple to grasp and they all have a decent description of how to play beforehand.
While it won’t be winning any awards for best graphics on the system, Mario & Sonic looks the part of an Olympic hopeful. All the character animations look nearly flawless and the locations are suitably stylized to accommodate the two franchises. The menus in the game are clear and easy to use, which is especially helpful when there are so many different options available.
Whilst competing, the game keeps track of your records and also awards players ‘tickets’ for various accomplishments. These can then be spent in the ‘badge machine’ to unlock a wide range of badges. While these are mostly superficial, they do give committed players more to aim for than just beating high scores. Mario & Sonic allows players to compare their top events against the rest of the world via WiFi; unfortunately, there is no option for online multiplayer. Overall, the game is pretty light on both SpotPass and Street Pass features, a poor oversight.
Part of the game is dedicated to a story mode, which contains possibly the most agonizingly dull plot ever thrown together. Loosely tying the two sets of characters together, this mode is full of babyish dialogue and sparse of actual game play. Admittedly, this game comes with the PEGI 3 rating, and will obviously be aimed at a universal audience, but, even under these restrictions, some other games and films manage to entertain all (Toy Story 3 and Shrek to name a couple). Here, trudging through the many hackneyed cut-scenes is a chore. The story mode also makes the players take on one event at a time for the first section, which slows down the game considerably and makes for a very boring first experience.
The Mario & Sonic franchise has enjoyed decent success in it’s past two iterations; however, unfortunately for Sega, the Olympic games don’t have a tendency to change too drastically from one to the next. There isn’t a great deal of new content here, and those who have invested in one of these games before may feel short changed. The Wii version of this title may well be superior as, while a commendable attempt has been made to translate the title to 3DS, getting involved with sports is far more suited to the motion controls of the Wii. The Wii also benefits from allowing multiple players to take part at once on a single console, whereas the 3DS requires all competitors to have at least their own system to play together.
After a not-too-great first impression, Mario & Sonic is a pleasantly surprising translation of a sports party title to a handheld micro-game one. This is a game I can see myself coming back to quite frequently, especially when the Games themselves are in full swing.