I have mentioned Mario and Sonic at the Olympic games for the Wii quite a few times over the last couple of months. Mainly because Sega were kind enough to invite me to a preview of it in London, but also because the whole concept intrigued me. Shortly before Christmas I got my copy of the game and since then I have been playing it on and off so that I can review it properly.
The concept of the game is pretty straight forward. It’s the cast of the Mario and Sonic games… and they’re competing at the Olympics. It all plays as a collection of mini games with most events being over in a matter of a minute or so.
Most people will likely jump right into the single match mode, select a character, and give it a whirl. Unfortunately when you first begin you are restricted to a small subset of events. Mostly to ease you in carefully. Unlocking more events involves playing the Circuit mode where you have to come first overall in groups of three challenges.
The events have, quite cleverly, been programmed so that the times and distances you get in the game correspond with the sort of times real athletes would get, and during each event you can see the current World and Olympic records for you to beat. Unfortunately the game doesn’t make use of the internet to update these times so they won’t be kept up to date through the actual Olympics.
The events use a wide variety of different control schemes, each of which is taught to you in game should you need it. This keeps things interesting and makes things much more Olympic styled. Some of the events are very challenging, and others are a case of technique. I did find, in particular with the repetitive events such as running, that once you learn the trick you can win every time… at least in single player mode. Multiplayer mode is where it all gets interesting.
As a single player game Mario and Sonic at the Olympic games is ok, but nothing particularly special. Get a bunch of friends to play against you and it all becomes much more fun. When people first play the game they tend to be quite shy about swinging the controller around for fear of looking like a loon, but after a few goes, and seeing that I go all out, they tend to “get it” and play properly – and that’s when the fun begins – and continues until the beer runs out.
The biggest problem I have with Mario and Sonic is the event unlock system. The fact that you have to play so much of the single player game to unlock new events seems a bit like a job at times. To make matters worse you can only play events in multiplayer mode once they have been unlocked, and some of the most enjoyable events are the ones you unlock last.
Visually the game is pretty good. It doesn’t have all the wow factor of Super Mario Galaxy but all the characters are recognisable, and the style fits both the Nintendo and Sega camps nicely. The stadium too, looks suitably authentic, and is actually based on the main stadium from the Beijing Olympics this year.
Overall I would say that Mario and Sonic at the Olympic games is a good game to get if you have a lot of friends who like to play this sort of thing. If it’s only you you should still get some enjoyment out of it but it won’t be quite the same.