With the countless crowds of crazies continuing their countdown to the 2012 Olympics, Nintendo and Sega have decided to jump back on to the bewilderingly excited bandwagon by releasing the new game Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Even if they weren’t interested in the actual event, many people were on tenterhooks about seeing their favourite two casts of characters joining forces once more.
It bragged of many new events such as Equestrianism, Soccer and Badminton, as well as the return of the family favourites. What they didn’t tell you was that you’d only get one game of each, despite the horse enthusiasts getting worked up about showing off their skills in events such as dressage. As you enter the single event menu, you’re greeted with a huge variety of different categories, seemingly offering hours of entertainment within each. However, look further and you’ll find that each sub menu of categories only allows you to play one or two games, apart from the first Athletics menu which was packed full, leading you into a false sense of hope.
There’s still the good old stuff right? Well no, not really as many of the old events have been dumbed down and feel like a half-assed attempt at winning back the fans. Events such as trampolining packed a great challenge in the 2008 edition of Mario and Sonic whereas this time, it’s just the same as the rest of the events – repetitive and lacking innovation.
As each event looks completely different, you expect the controls to vary depending on what you’re trying to do. Don’t be fooled though, this certainly isn’t the case. Whether you’re running or throwing, the controls are always exactly the same, plus or minus a few buttons – shake the Wii remote down to begin, wave it around during the event and bash a button at the end. Sure, it’s easy enough to understand, meaning that you can get the whole family involved (that includes you grandma!) but it doesn’t pose much of a challenge and feels a lot like one of the earlier Wii games where everyone was just getting used to the motion technology. Once you’ve played one event, you’ve pretty much played them all and so after a while, there was a real lack of incentive to carry on and it all felt rather rushed.
If you get bored of just trawling through lots of single events, the game offers a new mode of ‘London Party’ where you can walk around the streets and take part in various mini games. At first, it looks impressive as you instantly recognise the city and its greatest landmarks, obviously the developers but a lot of effort into getting that just right. Too bad they didn’t put much effort into the rest of this mode. If you’re familiar with games such as Mario Party, you’ll no doubt recognise most of the mini-games and excel in them after your many years of partying practise. Fair enough, this is an Olympics tie-in game, not a ‘let’s have a party!’ game and so you can’t really expect Sega to care very much about a gimmicky add-on.
The heavily advertised Free-Time ended up being a huge disappointment as you expect an epic exploration experience, but are instead greeted with 10 seconds of poking around an area the size of Princess Peach’s security detail, before speaking to a minor character that no-one really likes and being transported into the next game. If it’s not Free-Time it’s “Event Time!” or something equally as inventive.
On top of the inadequate additions, you also have access to a range of bonus features such as Dream Events and unlockables. The dream events, though a good idea, were poorly executed. What could be better than taking part in the long jump across Mushroom Kingdom or sprinting along a track in the Sonic universe? Fans were excited to experience these supposed gifts. Set the game up however, and you’re greeted with a rip-off of Super Monkey Ball with worse controls and a lot more aggravation. These ended up being a small, insignificant part of the game though and didn’t really take away (or add for that matter) any enjoyment that you may be having while playing.
To try and reinvigorate your enthusiasm, Sega have added unlockable music and outfits for you Mii, which are obtained via playing events, winning a scratch card and then matching two squares within that scratch card. A long process such as this usually involves a large challenge and something to aim for; however, if you lose out on the scratch card stage, you can keep the wasted ones and trade a handful in for an outfit anyway. Sure, it stops the game becoming frustrating if you want to dress up as Yoshi for a while or listen to some very old Sonic music, but it also removes any challenging aspects of the unlockables. As long as you play events, you’ll win some things that you’ll soon find out you don’t really care much about as the music is all free to listen to online.
Speaking of things you don’t really care about, there is a wide selection of characters to choose from when playing the game. Okay, so many people probably demanded to be able to prance about the gymnastics floor as Yoshi or throw a spiked stick as Amy, but many were obviously added in order to fill up some space within the menu. Characters such as Silver the Hedgehog and Vector the Crocodile only appeared in a couple of games and many fans celebrated at the thought of never seeing them again, so why they were inserted into this game no-one really knows.
As well as this, they are split into different sections depending on their various skills, which is a great idea if you want to get that certain edge over your little sibling in the next race. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as well as Sega thought it would. Playing against my colleague, we took part in the 100m sprint, him as Sonic and me as Donkey Kong, I fully expected him to win and me to come in around six seconds afterwards. Instead, we both set off at the same rate and in the end; I came in so far in front of people that there wasn’t enough dust left for them to eat. It wasn’t due to incredible skill either as I usually end up smacking myself in the face when playing on the Wii. Really, the categories for characters are purely just for show. A nice, easily missable show.
Although the Wii offers no achievement system normally, Nintendo and Sega have tried to implement one into the game in order to win back fans that have stopped believing in good games ever since they switched this one on. Although it’s yet another thing that is just for show, it’s a nice idea and attempts to put the Wii back into the competition with other consoles that add replayability to games with aspects such trophies and achievements. However, the first time you play any event, you’ll win about three of these achievements and you have no idea how or why you did so. If you want to check up on this and see what else there is to unlock, you’ll have to search around for a tiny, tucked away screen, which, for the achievement whores among us, puts us off the whole collection aspect. On top of this, the commentator gets on your nerves each time you unlock one.
“Challenge completed!” is the majority of what you’ll hear when playing this game and the voice acting of such is so annoying that you’ll want to block your ears full of acid after just 10 minutes. Apart from this, the only voice acting available was a couple of voice clips for each character, harvested from older games that have already been laid to rest and for good reason too. There’s a wide variety of musical tracks, though most of these are just soundtracks of old Sonic and Mario games placed into each event on a tiny loop and seemingly chosen to annoy the hell out of you even more than the game is already capable of doing. Slight exaggeration aside, there were some original tracks, though nothing special as they all sounded as though they were created in the space of an hour by a classroom full of monkeys. For developers that have provided great music in the past, this was a further disappointment to the already lacking game.
At face value, the graphics look about as good as the Wii can manage, with the characters looking as realistic as in their own series’, though nothing less was expected of the developers in such a celebrated, epic game. The completely unsatisfactory part came with the arenas for the various events. Sure, the tracks and rooms themselves look colourful and inviting, sticking close the existing locations, but the crowd is what brought the game right down. Being in the 7th generation, where graphical limitations shouldn’t be an issue (see Mario Galaxy and Uncharted), there’s an expectation of an eye to detail.
Look at the crowd however, and you’re staring back 15 years into the past where everyone in the background was 2D and extremely blurry. You could barely see their faces and had no idea whether their eyes were glaring into the Olympians’ souls or whether they were falling asleep. Many fans expected to never see pre-rendered sprites in a game ever again, yet here they are, in a game that had four free years to make. Yes, Nintendo and Sega had other projects within that time but even if they’d copied and pasted one member of the crowd into each seat, it would have looked better, especially as it’s a game that people have been anticipating for months.
Overall, Mario and Sonic have provided fun for the family for the space of about 30 seconds; until the game had fully loaded up. From then on, it went completely downhill and we would have been more satisfied it we’d been given a free cookie and told to shut up about the Olympics. The game falls flat on its face at the first hurdle with an appalling 2/10.
If you’ve bought Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games and want to heartily agree with us or tell us how wrong we could possibly be, let us know in the comments section!