I haven’t played a game involving track and field events since the late eighties when I was on the Nintendo Entertainment System and used the Power Pad mat. I remember running in place at a manic pace trying to set insane time records. It was a blast to play yet rather exhausting as I spent hours at a time competing against the AI followed by my brothers and friends. So I was curious to see how things have progressed over two decades later with Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The graphics are not what we have come to expect from the current console era – but that is due to the Wii’s capabilities. Despite that fact I couldn’t help but wince while looking at the dated graphics plastered all over my 40-inch TV screen. As my gaze took in the bright colors and memorable characters, they all felt dimmed by the game’s aged looks.
While Mario & Sonic might be lacking in the graphics department, they more than make up for it with the activities one can participate in. There are 21 Olympic events, plus 10 Dream games that put a spin on some of the Olympic events, while introducing some new ones. Then there is the London Party mode which will have you competing against friends, or AI, in an attempt to fill up a sticker book through various tasks and over 50 party missions. All of which you will do while running through a miniaturized London.
In other words Mario & Sonic offers you a lot of content. The problem is that you are not going to spend a lot time playing most of it or, for that matter, even enjoying some of it all that much. I found myself breezing through events such as the 100m Sprint, 110m Hurdles, 4 x 100m Relay, Long Jump, Show Jumping, Canoe Sprint 1000m, and Pistol Shooting. Then there were events like the Trampoline, Rythmic Ribbon, Synchronized Swimming, Badminton, Epee, and Table Tennis, which were a complete bore.
Some games were a lot of fun such as Football, Team Pursuit (Track Cycling), and all ten of the Dream Events, which put a more enjoyable spin on the Long Jump, Sprint, Fencing, and Equestrian Olympic Sports. The Dream Events, especially, are the highlight of the game. For example the Fencing Olympic Event involved two players moving forwards and back which I found to be quite boring. However the Dream Fencing event included four players that could move all over the area, grab randomly dropped items, and knock each other off the playing field in an attempt to be the last man standing.
Now what I found surprising is that the control scheme is a mixed bag just like the games. Some games had me shaking my Wiimote up and down or just spinning it around while other games were nothing more than timed movements and the rest were using a classic controller style or going with the Nunchuck control scheme. Interestingly, most of the games I enjoyed involved me using the classic controller style scheme.
Sadly, the motion controlling is boring and tiring. Shaking my arm for the track and field events felt like a huge step back compared to when I was running in place on the Power Pad all those years ago. At least with the Power Pad I was getting some exercise while the Wiimote made limited use of my body.
However, there is an unexpected bonus to playing this game. You receive scratch cards for completing events, which can be used to win costume items for Miis or to listen to individual songs. It’s a nice little add-on which encourages gamers to keep replaying events.
In the end, though, I found that I wasn’t spending much time playing Mario & Sonic given how easy most of the games were and the general lack of replayability. However, you’ll spend more time playing the game if you are doing so with friends. The London Party mode is a fun experience while most of the Olympic and Dream events have a multiplayer option.
But when it comes right down to it Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games is a game filled with both good and bad items. Luckily, the good slightly outweighs the bad.
Tested on Wii
Review copy supplied