The Olympic Games are a huge draw around the world and few things get the national pride and competitive juices flowing more than the Olympics do. The Games themselves seem like a natural fit for a video game; so, it has always struck me as odd that quality titles based on the Games are so few and far between. Four years ago, with the Shanghai Games, Sega and Nintendo teamed up to try and rectify that trend bringing Mario and Sonic together to compete for the gold. While the quality of that title and its winterized sequel from two years ago is subject to debate, there is little denying that fans of the iconic duo ate it up.
This year, the Games are in London, England and once again Sega and Nintendo have teamed up to bring us, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games. And this time the Games will be mobile as the game is playable on the Nintendo 3DS. The game comes complete with a very in depth story mode with Bowser and Dr. Eggman (he’ll always be Dr. Robotnik to me) sabotaging the Games because they were not invited to participate. Barring the obvious question of why plumbers, princesses and talking animals were asked to participate but not giant tortoises and people that look like eggs, the story mode is actually a fun time with well paced, if somewhat hokey narrative starring all your favorite friends and foes of Mario and Sonic.
The story mode, while entertaining and well produced, mostly serves as a great sampler to the 40+ events the game has to offer. Mario, Sonic and friends will compete against Bowser and Eggman’s minions in a variety of events. Most events take less than a minute to finish and while it is certainly fair to call the game a mini-game compilation but that should not be seen as a negative.
Similar to the Warioware titles on the original DS, the game creates quick experiences that utilize nearly every feature the platform offers to its fullest extent. Also similar to the Warioware titles, the correlation between on screen action and what they player is tasked with doing can be somewhat sketchy. But then again how does one simulate swimming, or weightlifting, or any other Olympic sport on a handheld device? Sure, yelling into the 3DS microphone has little to do with lifting weights but it is fun, even if you look like a tool while doing it. And there are a lot of events where the actions make perfect sense for the activity, like target shooting being controlled by the right bumper or sailing by a combination of gyroscopic controls and blowing into the microphone to simulate wind. However, not every action is a ton of fun to perform and button mashing remains as un-fun as it was back when I played Summer Games on my Commodore 64.
While the majority of the game is quite fun to play, there are a few technical issues that hold it back from being a stellar 3DS release. The biggest of these issues is the 3D implementation. The 3D in the Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, is subtle at best. While the nature of the game, and how the controls were implemented might have been a factor in the diminished role of 3D here, with games like Super Mario 3D Land and Resident Evil really showing off the power of the system, it is something of a letdown to see exactly how little it is utilized here and I ended up playing the majority of the time with it shut off.
As great as it is that Sega developed the game to utilize every aspect of the 3DS, it is also one of the game’s biggest failings. The 3DS by nature is designed to be taken on the go but the variety of actions that are required to be performed put the player into some awkward positions, for instance being asked to put the 3DS down on a flat surface or twist it around to aim, might not be possible while playing on the go.
And finally, mini-game compilations scream for great multiplayer and what is packed on the cart is less than stellar. All multiplayer in the game must be done locally with people on your same network. I love local competitive play as much as anyone but I know exactly one person who I regularly play games with locally that even owns a 3DS, not being able to play with my other friends via the internet is a huge detractor for the game. That said if you do have friends that have 3DS’s to play with you locally, the game features download and play multiplayer, allowing for only one cartridge to be shared amongst the four players.
All in all, despite its issues, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games is a fun little diversion from all the other big titles that are releasing on other platforms. The competitive nature of the Games translates well to the mini-game superstructure and the story mode provides a lengthy, well produced, and fun, if somewhat goofy, play experience. Considering the 3DS library is still aching for quality titles, Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games makes a worthwhile addition to anyone’s playlists.
- Lengthy, well produced, and great looking story mode
- A ton of unique events to challenge players
- Utilizes nearly all the features of the 3DS
- Lackluster 3D
- Some of the gameplay is not friendly in a mobile environment
- No online multiplayer
3 / 5