"Gold Medal Worthy? Not So Much"
Writing the review for the 3DS version of Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games reminds me of the preview I wrote back in September. I remember it fondly, as it was the first article I had ever written for GameDynamo.
Sentiments aside, time to deliver my verdict on the actual game… well, that'll have to wait. First, I shall tell you about the game itself in greater detail. Chances are you know of the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series, and if you haven't, worry not. All you need to know to get up to speed is on the box art.
As you may expect, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games is filled to the brim with video game-friendly takes on Olympic events. In total, there are over 50 events within, and they are spread across several categories like athletics, swimming, gymnastics, boating events, and so on. From the get-go, you can take on these events in various ways, like playing an event all by its onesy or participating in various "medleys" that can be three, five, or even twenty events long. You can also select events based on factors like timing, reflex, etc., and as a nice touch, you can create your own customized medleys with whatever events you want.
Aside from these is the game's Story Mode, through which unfolds the tale of Mario, Sonic, and friends' journey through London to stop Bowser and Dr. Eggman, who are trying to prevent the Olympics from happening with…um…magic fog… that can create clones of our heroes. And the only way for our heroes to save the day is to challenge the bad guys to Olympic events…because, you know, violence is bad for kids… yeah. In short, don't come into this mode looking for gold-medal storytelling.
It's just as well, since the events are what make this game worth one's time. In my preview, the one I mentioned at the beginning, I wrote that the unique features of the 3DS would be employed throughout the events, and London 2012 does a good job of keeping me from being a liar. For example, the system's gyroscope gets plenty of mileage and comes in handy in events that require rowing, balancing, or aiming. The microphone too, while not to the same degree, shines every now and then in events like Breaststroke and Weightlifting. And let's not forget the touch-screen and the buttons, all of which are employed in the different events as well.
One of the things that I find that Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games does well is the variety within certain categories. The track events, for one, are a good example of this, as each one comes with its own unique control scheme. Whereas one event will have you memorizing which buttons you have to press to jump over hurdles, another will have you swiping the touch screen back and forth to run as fast as possible. This is good, as it keeps things far more fresh than they could have been and serve to all-in-all enhance the experience.
However, a few noticeable factors also serve to throw a wrench in the fun. First, is the occasional dud in the event line-up, such as the Singles Kayak race, which revolve around spinning the Circle Pad in mad circles to row (if you ever played the first Mario Party, then you'll know why this isn't a good thing) and Synchronized Diving, where all you do is count a few seconds and then press a button to dive in the hopes that you dive in synch with a partner. Another thing about the events I didn't like was that they tended to cover only parts of their real world counterparts. For example, Soccer and Basketball. Instead of actual matches, both of these events are simply penalty shot rounds. That's it. This abridging of events occurs often across the line-up, which is a tad disappointing.
Also, I found London 2012's character classification system somewhat irksome. Instead of grouping characters based off traits like speed and strength, Mario & Sonic splits the roster of 20 into five groups based more on character type. For example, Mario and Sonic are in the "Heroes" group, the females are placed in the aptly-named "Girls" group, and big guys like Bowser and Donkey Kong are "Wild Ones". It's certainly different from what has been done in previous installments, and normally I would have shrugged this change off, were it not for the fact that each and every event in this game is exclusive to only one of these five groups. In some ways this makes sense. It would be silly, after all, to see Bowser Jr. trying to lift heavy weights, and none of the male characters would look right in the Ribbon Dancing event (though that would be quite the humorous sight, admit it). However, the game goes overboard, in my opinion, with this kind of restriction, and after a while it became annoying that I could only play certain events as four characters.
Other things like a huge lack of extras (no Dream Events or online multiplayer, for instance) bog this experience down further, but not to such an extreme that I did not enjoy my time with Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The pros outweigh the cons in this game, and, despite the issues mentioned, I was far from irritated most of the time as I played. Of course, if a realistic Olympic simulator that captures the complete feel of the different events is what you're looking for, then you'll be left out in the cold.
I mean, how much realism can you find in a game where you can watch a hedgehog ride a bike?
GameDynamo's Score for Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games (3DS)
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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