Early as it is, sports lovers are already abuzz about next
year's Summer Olympic Games. With tickets harder to come by than a tea-time
chat with the Queen, the closest most of us will ever get to the event is
Sega's newest title, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Unfortunately for us, this half-inspired, half-humdrum sequel offers an
experience of the Games that's more bronze than gold-medal-worthy.
As a reminder, this isn't Mario and Sonic's first trip to
the rodeo. The two friendly rivals have met twice previously in other Olympic
Games. While four years ago it might have been exciting to see the two go
head-to-head, today the matchup is nothing special. On top of this, aside from
the addition of a few new sporting events (including soccer and equestrian
jumping), the Olympic portion of the game plays much the same as did the in first
M&S summer Olympics. To be fair, in addition to the events being retreads,
the controls are still pretty good - responsive and easy to use - and you can
choose to play with either a horizontal Wii remote or Wii remote and Nunchuk
combination (although since some games require you to disconnect the Nunchuk,
the latter's more trouble than it's worth).
While the game's ease-of-use is a definite plus, it does
nothing to alter the fact that the straight-up sporting events are something of
a yawn. Granted, it never gets old seeing characters like Bowser or Wario
performing a “rhythmic ribbon” gymnastics routine or taking part in
synchronized swimming, but in the end even those instances of out-and-out
silliness just aren't enough. Where the game's true interest lies is in its
surreal Dream Events and its newest mode, London Party.
Dream Events add bizarre elements to real life sports,
turning a trampoline event into a dizzying leap from an increasingly high
platform or a long jump into an extended bouncy race across fluffy clouds.
These fanciful events have little or nothing to do with actual Olympic sports
but because of that they’re a lot more fun. Also fun is London Party mode.
Taking full advantage of the 2012 Games' UK setting, this new mode takes place
on a board-game-like depiction of London, complete with landmarks like Big Ben
and the London Eye. Here, up to four players compete in sporting events and
special minigames (anything from answering trivia questions to collecting
coins) in hopes of winning enough tourist stickers to fill up a book. This cool
and chaotic mode represents a refreshing departure from the run-of-the-mill
sporting event side of the game.
Whatever mode you play, after every event Scratch Cards are
earned which can then be redeemed in the game's Bonus Mode for prizes like Mii
costumes and additional music. The game's cartoony graphics are done well as
befits Mario and Sonic, and include many custom intro cinematics and
animations. Sound too is mostly good, characterized by the energetic and
ethereal themes of the Mario and Sonic titles, but could do without some of the
monotonous, over-repeated voice lines.
Thanks to the strange combination of one diverting new mode
with a slew of rehashed sporting events, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012
Olympic Games disappoints as much as it entertains. Multiplayer ups the fun
factor of even the less-inspired sections of it, but the game as a whole is a
middling affair players new to the franchise might enjoy, while likely causing
boredom in Mario and Sonic veterans.