Saturday, 21 May 2011

Mario and Sonic are ready for the London 2012 Olympics. You ?

With every second that ticks from the digital clock in Olympic square (when it's working anyway), anticipation of next year's sporting extravaganza grows. And you know the sight that the IOC loves to see most as Olympic fever grips the nation? That's right. Licensed merchandise. Hooray!
I jest, of course. But as the 2012 games approach, a slew of products branded with that rubbish logo will fill our lives, or at least petrol station tills and those stands they have at the front of Tesco.
Few, I doubt, will be as good, honest fun as Sega's video game tie-in Mario and Sonic at the London Olympics. Dropping two of gaming's most recognisable mascots into the world's biggest sporting event is commercial gold no matter the quality of the product, but when they invaded Beijing in 2008 and Vancouver in 2010, the games were genuinely fun. With a similar mix of eclectic events and Sega and Nintendo's bubbly video game verve, Mario and Sonic's visit to London is shaping up nicely too.
The setup is immediately familiar from the previous two games. Pit Mario, Sonic and a selection of their chums against each in sport themed mini-games. You can set up tournaments to see who wins the most gold medals, and the game gets funnier with every extra player you add.

At a recent hands-on event, five out of a possible 30 events for the Wii were available for testing, and a medley of mini-events allowed us to take a look at the 3DS version.
First up for the Wii was Equestrianism and, honestly, it was worth it just to see giant turtle king Bowser on a horse. The specific event was showjumping, guiding your nag around a simple course and leaping stripy hurdles. A steady shake of the Wii remote held sideways geed your steed into movement, while tilting the controller to either side pulled on the reins in order to steer. As you approach each obstacle, you are prompted to tap A at the right time to execute the perfect jump.
It's a pleasingly simple control setup, allowing you to concentrate on the important things. It's a familiar approach to control that is weaved through all the minigames. Badminton only assigns the swing of your racket, allowing you to aim your shots to the four corners of the court. If your opponent has swung too late and lofted the shuttlecock into the rafters, you can set yourself up for a smash shot. Each character has their own special move, Mario turns the shuttlecock into a fireball, while Sonic's smash turns into a blue blur of speed, vanishing from sight before hurtling back down to the court. The shots are still returnable, but can often knock you off your feet, leaving you open to an easy drop shot.
Rowing, meanwhile, has you dragging the remote downwards like an oar through water, trying to find a rhythm. The need for two players to match stroke timing in co-op leads to a silly to and fro, and was the event that offered up the most laughs out of the traditional events on offer.
The most interesting addition to the series this time around is the "Dream Events"; fantasy video game twists on Olympic disciplines. We were shown discus, in which your characters launch a giant discus from a cliff before hopping aboard. It's then a race to collect the most gold rings that spin in mid-air, as you fly through a slipstream that twists through rocky mountains (not in London anymore, Dorothy). You can also get a score boost at the end of the course by landing your discus on a giant target, bashing your opponents out of the way in order to hit the bullseye.
Then there's the long jump. As the competitors reach the end of the track, they hurtle themselves into the clouds. From there, you must bounce from cloud to cloud in a neat scrolling 2D platform game, knocking your opponents out of the way in order to record the longest jump. It's a lovely way of marrying the sport theme with the heritage of the heroes on the packaging.
Ultimately, though, it doesn't look like the Wii version will throw up too many surprises in its enjoyable family fun. However, the handheld 3DS version is looking rather more intriguing. The basic setup is the same as its home console partner, but the events are tailor made to the 3DS's various different features. We were shown a quick medley of events that used almost every part of the console. Canoeing has you madly swirling the circle pad in order to pick up speed, gymnastics uses the tilt control to keep balanced, judo is a button-based QTE scrap, swimming asks you to blow into the microphone to maintain breathing, while power walking uses the touchscreen asking you to sweep your stylus in time to music.
This was just five small events of a much larger number, and while the Wii version will no doubt be a lot of fun, it was the 3DS version's cute invention that won me over.
Mario & Sonic at the London Olympics then, is likely to be exactly what you expect. A fun, slightly daft way to enjoy the spirit of the Olympics in the company of familiar mascots. Sounds more appealing than the other inevitable "realistic" Olympics game that will form the great wave of merchandise, doesn't it? But how about a crossover? I've always wondered who would win a race between Sonic and Usain Bolt.


  1. Looks like its going to be enjoyable.

  2. Heh, a fusion of two of the oldest video game characters not sure if i'll like it though.

  3. lets see some super mario pics! lol

  4. Such a silly name for a video game.

  5. Wii sports games are great

  6. The original sonic olympics was boss, i cant wait to see mario! haha

  7. Love relaxing with games like this, cant wait
    Great post, followed!

  8. Interesting, gonna be fun, no doubt.

  9. Doesn't seem like it'll be too great, but Nintendo often does a good job at surprising us.

  10. This will be awesome!

  11. 2012 logo = zion

    Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuun.


  12. Hoping the 3DS version doesn't suck, it needs some decent games going for it.

  13. That game sounds awesome. If done right. Interesting too see Sonic and Mario in the same game.

  14. hmmm i havent been a Nintendo game player since the Super NES so im not interested in this.

  15. good review =D glad to see games that take advantage of the 3D technology

  16. Sonic and Usain Bolt would be quite the race. Why not throw Captain Falcon in there to mix it up?

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