Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games DS Review

Once upon a time the very idea of Sonic and Mario appearing in the same game was unthinkable, way back then they were fierce rivals. These days though the unthinkable dream of a nineties video game nerd has become a reality, not just once, but twice with a DS version of the Wii sports game Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. But despite the games setting the once great rivals are not in direct competition with one another, they’re obviously saving that for Super Smash Bros Brawl.

The roster is made up of sixteen characters, eight from Mario games and eight from the Sonic series, but when it comes down to playing the game your rivals appear to be randomly picked from either team, there is no Mario vs. Sonic vibe at all, which is a shame. Another shame is that there is no game mode where you can play through all the events. There’s plenty of game modes, both single and multiplayer, but none where you can play out the whole Olympics. It’s quite surprising really, considering the similarities it has with the Track & Field and Decathlon games of the eighties, which would make you go through all events in sequence, the most you can do here is five events in a row, either in single or multiplayer. Lets not concentrate on the negatives though, as that’s about all there is, and there’s a lot of good things going for this title.

As I just mentioned, the gameplay is very reminiscent of the Track & Field and Decathlon games, but whereas back then you’d pound buttons or waggle joysticks to build up speed here you will be rubbing your touch screen. As with previous games of this type this kind of control method works well at simulating the effort and stamina needed in the real thing. Not all events are about speed though; some like skeet shooting, archery, boxing and table tennis are more about skill and timing. Other events, such as hammer, javelin, triple jump, long jump and the horse vault use a combination of speed and skill. All events though have a control scheme that works well, be it all done on the touch screen, the buttons, or a combination of both. Yhey’re not all easy to get to grips with, and some events in particular are quite tricky to get the hang of.

Not all events are playable at the start of the game. They have to be unlocked by playing any of the single players three game modes, single event, circuit or mission. Single event id, unsurprisingly, exactly what it says it is, circuit and mission modes are a bit more interesting. Circuit pits you against three other AI players in a series of five events, you get a chance to double your points in one event, a bit like playing the joker in that old TV show ‘It’s a Knock Out’, which is handy when you’re trailing points wise. Circuits always end in a ‘Dream’ event. These ‘Dream’ events are all set in Mario or Sonic’s worlds, not at Beijing like the regular events, and as such are a bit on the crazy side, table tennis and fencing will give you power shots, the shooting becomes like a light gun arcade game, racing turns in to a very Mario Kart like event, just without the karts, and so on. There’s eight of these Dream events to unlock, putting the total of events at twenty four and sixteen circuits to play through divide in to beginners, advanced and master classes, so there’s plenty of gameplay here to keep you going.

In Mission mode each of the games sixteen characters gets five missions to complete. These missions involve playing an event and satisfying certain conditions, say placing second in a race, jumping so many hurdles and so on. These can be a lot trickier than the regular events, with some of the events a hell of a lot tougher than others and some nigh on impossible. It certainly adds a challenge for once you’ve completed all the circuits and got gold medals on all events. There’s all sorts of unlockables too; trophies for every circuit, medals for every event and character, and all sorts of emblems you get for pulling off certain tricks. On top of that there are some mini games to play, which will unlock some notable tunes from the two franchises’ history to play on the menu screens. And if all that isn’t enough to keep you going there is multiplayer too, both single and multicard, single card only lets you play six of the events as single events, but multicard allows you to play all events, and circuits as well as single events. But sadly despite the Nintendo Wifi Connection logon on the box there is no online multiplayer, the online features of the game are nothing more than leaderboards, which is a shame.

Overall you get a great game here, it has a lot going for it, plenty of variety, a lasting challenge, multiplayer and excellent presentation. It’s a little lacking in some areas, no full Olympic game mode and no online play, but these are small niggles really. If you like your sports games you could do a whole lot worse than pick this game up, and the inclusion of Mario and Sonic makes it a must buy for fans of the franchises.

A definite place on the winners’ podium.

8 out of 10