If you venture into the London area during the run-up to the 2012 Olympics you’ll likely encounter two diametrically opposed groups of people; those who are falling over themselves to see the world’s best athletes compete in purpose built stadia and others who wonder what the fuss is all about. SEGA Sports latest, with the help of Nintendo’s all star mascots, is without any shadow of a doubt purpose built for the former group with twenty-one different sporting disciplines making their way into what is by all accounts a fully licensed and entertaining mini-game collection.
Inclusions range from the well known track events like 100m sprint to more eccentric competitive fields like gymnastics’ Rhythmic Ribbon, so there’s a surprising amount of variety with players usually required to meet on-screen button prompts in good timing and gesture the Wiimote up and down repeatedly to emulate physical exertion. Each event has a different control scheme, so it would be easy for the game to get overwhelming but thanks to some helpful tips and control scheme advice before every event, it’s easy to know exactly what you’re doing.
That said there’s little depth to any of the field events, as they usually just require some RSI-enducing waggling with the occasional press of ‘A’ button to accommodate some kind of special move, but honestly that’s fine as this kind of instant understanding is perfect for the game’s target audience and fits in with the odd machismo which is associated with throwing a long stick or jumping into a large pit of sand whilst ensuring a line of putty remains undamaged.
The more extravagant events like Fencing, Track Cycling and Synchronised Swimming are much more imaginative, with control schemes to match, thanks to some great implementation and a surprising attention to each discipline’s respective detail. For instance take the bizarre practice of dancing in water, it would have been easier for SEGA to make this some kind of button-based rhythm-game, but instead what they did something much more engaging, and incidentally humiliating. Players need to act out the performance seen on-screen with the aid of gesture prompts requiring arms to be raised and Wiimotes to be shaken in time with the music and once you shirk off your inhibitions, it’s surprisingly a lot of fun! Obviously this is aided by the bizarre sight of witnessing Bowser et al, shaking their tail feathers at the screen whilst upside down in a crystal clear swimming pool, but these sorts of absurd events will regularly put a smile on your face and whoever you happen to be playing with.
Each event can be tackled individually with the added incentive of online leaderboards and in-game rewards, but for a more cohesive experience there’s also a multiplayer mode dubbed, ‘London Party.’ This is the closest thing the game has to a campaign and involves one to four players battling it out on a simplified London tourist map, enrolling in certain Olympic events and more casual distractions like tag, collect-a-thons and even quizzes with good performances offering up stickers, with the eventual aim of filling up your sticker book before anyone else. Despite how haphazard this mode seems to have been thrown together it’s actually really fun thanks to some surprisingly knowing call-outs to Sonic and Mario, as well as some devilish mechanics which ensure proceedings usually stay maddeningly close.
London Party has a board game structure and constantly involves different types of events so even short attention spans should be kept entertained as the mode is constantly throwing new things at players.
Last but not least SEGA Sports have also put their own slant on the featured Olympic disciplines care of ‘Dream Events’, these are usually much fancier than their real-life counterparts, with the 100m Sprint emulated via players rolling giant Air Balls around an elaborately designed maze Super Monkey Ball-style, but they also add something completely different to this already bulky mini-game package.
It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a surprising attention to authenticity in Mario and Sonic 2012 with different stadia often being labelled correctly and looking as they should, which is again an example of SEGA going the extra mile with what many will dismiss as an easy cash-in.
The London 2012 Olympic Games is just over eight months away, yet us simulated athletes have already got a game to flex our interactive muscles in and even though it’s definitely much cuter and cuddlier than the majority of gamers would want, we still had a great few hours with Mario & Sonic. Just don’t expect this mini-game collection to keep you busy until the opening ceremony or anything…
Verdict: A solid casual-orientated and kid friendly experience – 78%
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