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Mario & Sonic: London 2012 Olympic Games 3DS

23:4722/02/2012Posted by Chris MorellNo Comments

Bowser and Dr. Eggman must be the most incompetent villains ever. After countless attempts at stealing a hero’s princess and imprisoning small furry animals in despicable machines, it seems the pair have been reduced to the most ridiculous plot of all – to make London foggier. Not to worry though, as the plucky plumber and spikey blue speedster are on the case, and it seems that the best way to turn back the tide of ‘evil’ is to trump the competition in a broad selection of sporting events. Does this handheld rendition of the 2012 Olympic Games go for gold, or does it falter at the starting block?

Mario and Sonic at London 2012 spins this ludicrous yarn via cutscenes and selected events in Story mode. As you might expect, true voice work is absent in favour of looping phrases and repetitive sound effects, all of which can be skipped if you so desire. There are some laughs to be had, but the odds are you won’t be laughing along to the game, but rather chuckling at the premise itself as well as its half-baked execution. To the writers’ credit, an engaging tale would be difficult to produce given such a heavy focus on mini-game shenanigans, plus you won’t be staring at static screens like in prior handheld titles.

The platforming thrills of the separate Mario and Sonic franchises are as absent as expected, replaced by a variety of quick games inspired by the Olympics, with many of them setting out to make use of the 3DS’s various hardware options. Sailing for example, requires you to blow on the system while adjusting the sails with the circle pad (which can be extremely clumsy, though limiting given the game’s habit of telling you exactly when to do these things), while archery demands precise timing with a swipe of the stylus. If you fancy looking like a raving lunatic in public places then weightlifting is the one for you, as the character is controlled with a series of well-timed roars; timing a roar, however, is much easier said than done.

The game mixes things up but tends to keep the proceedings simple, with the likes of sprinting being handled with a hold and release of the A button followed by furious tapping. Hurdles serves as a quick memory test as buttons must be pressed in sequence, but not all events have been designed to be quite so accessible. Basketball, for instance, is handled with the use of the gyroscope and momentum of the 3DS itself, and other trials such as volleyball are often lacking decent explanation which leads to some frustrating failed attempts as you try to learn the ropes on the fly. The fact that the game taunts you with a failure screen before you can jump back into the action simply adds insult to injury.

Outside of the Story mode, you can take a crack at any single event you like in Highlight Match, or have a stab at a medley, which is made up of different rounds. Mario and Sonic also supports multiplayer through local or download play. Replay value is offered via medals and online leaderboards, but don’t go expecting a plethora of useful rewards – personal achievement will have to suffice, with self-improvement over each course serving as the main reason to continue playing. If the disjointed nature of a selection of short mini-games isn’t your thing then you can’t expect to be catered for here.

Mario and Sonic at the London Olympics is visually decent and the 3D effect works impressively enough. You’ve seen better on the system but in all likelihood you’ll have also seen worse, making Sega’s attempt at bringing the usual cast of characters (such as Knuckles, Silver, Shadow, Wario and Waluigi) to life an admirable one. That said, these characters offer no alterations or advantages over each other, leaving the host of mini-games to pick up the slack. There’s nothing here that will blow you away, but it’s a well-presented offering with all the smiling faces and bright colours that you’d hope for in a game such as this – first and foremost, it’s aimed towards the casual and the young.

Essentially, a game such as this works best on the home console when you’re surrounded with friends. On the handheld, the party vibe (one of the most important factors when dealing with a collection of fast-paced mini-games) is lost as it’s primarily a solitary affair. Mashing on buttons just doesn’t have the same charm unless a friendly competitor is there to experience it with you, and even then the longevity is dubious. Sega should be commended for trying to keep players on their toes by changing up how each event is played, but it just isn’t enough to stave off the tedium for long; unsurprisingly, the game lends itself better to short bursts rather than extended bouts of play.

The odds are you’ll have played a game like this before, especially if you’ve ever owned some of the more casual games on the DS Lite or Wii. The colourful cast will please younger fans and the graphics are nice, but in reality it’s all window-dressing for a game that could have been much more enjoyable than it is. It’s simply no good having fifty eclectic events when only a few of them are any fun, and it would have been great had some of them been solid enough to make for simple yet wholesome games unto themselves. Instead, these events are short, and at times, overly basic. Hardcore 3DS owners are advised to save their money for the meatier and more absorbing releases on the system, but children may well find a few events to love given the novel way in which the hardware is used. Regardless, Mario and Sonic won’t be winning a medal with this one.

This review is based on a Nintendo 3DS retail copy provided by Sega.

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