Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games Review

Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games (3DS)
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

Seeing Mario and Sonic come together to compete in the Olympic games every two years illustrates how unifying these athletic competitions are. Sure, while the rivalries between Nintendo and Sega are vastly more insignificant than say, the struggle between USA and Afghanistan, it is nevertheless fun to witness universes colliding. It certainly is not the most riveting way for these characters to unite – we all know that a creative platformer that successfully merged Mario and Sonic’s gameplay styles would be a lot more exciting. If Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympics is any indication though, perhaps this partnership should remain ceremonious.

Mario and Sonic on the 3DS delivers over fifty Olympic mini-games, rather than emulating the Wii versions fewer, more fleshed out games. These games are quite brief and utilize simple control schemes. Playing tennis only requires sliding the stylus left or right to hit the ball in the desired direction, because your character automatically runs towards it. Swimming in a relay race is as easy as blowing into the microphone when your character’s head comes up for air.

Streamlining these controls to provide an experience that accommodates the handheld’s portability is not the issue. The reliance of cliché mini-game mechanics, and the inability to creatively expand upon them, makes for an unremarkable collection of Olympic competitions. All of the tropes are on display: correctly timing power meters, mashing buttons as quickly as possible, rotating the circle pad, drawing countless circles on the touch screen, timing jumps, tracing, etc.

Many games are functionally identical, yet utilize different control inputs to trick you into thinking there is some semblance of variety. There is no logic behind which games require which buttons too – the circle pad will be used to move your character the same way the d-pad will in the next game. Worse yet, Mario and Sonic frequently incorporate the 3DS’s microphone and gyroscopes into games that simply do not require such input mechanisms. One game, where you are lifting weights, requires you to shout when the swift moving power meter is in the center, but because the microphone is as unresponsive as a junkie on heroin, the timing is stupidly difficult. Another competition has you jerking the system towards you when the game prompts you to row. These games, and many more, use unconventional controls to conceal their laughably trite minimalism.

The few competitions that lack a strict time limit and promote skillful gameplay prove to be the more enjoyable ones. Badminton challenges you to hit the birdie if it is in or to sidestep it if it is out of bounds. As you play it, the speed of the shuttlecock increases, the perspective changes, and the trajectory becomes more erratic. Another solid game has you shooting pairs of flying discuses with the gyroscopes that gets increasingly more difficult. These games, and a few others, stand out by using a structure that encourages high scores through rewarding mechanics.

Mario and Sonic’s Story Mode has you playing medleys of mini-games, linked together by an outrageously pointless narrative. Mario and (to a lesser degree) Sonic games rarely attempt to incorporate plots, so why bother here? Time spent working on that should have been used to craft a better format to distribute the mini-games. As the primary single-player mode, its focus on forcing you to play the same games over and over again shows it is more concerned with padding the experience rather than offering additional content.

No amount of perfunctory incentives will propel you to replay most of these mini-games. And if you play through Story Mode in its entirety, you have seen everything this game has to offer. While fifty-three competitions may sound like enough content to pique your interest, they straddle the line of effectively simple to horrendously trivial poorly. The essence of these events has been inadequately represented due to a complete lack of creativity, thus resulting in generic, routine mini-games. For a game that features two delightfully charismatic video games mascots, Mario and Sonic the at the London 2012 Olympic Games is nothing but a squandered opportunity. Most upsettingly, it unsuccessfully encapsulates the amount of enthusiasm and excitement the real Olympics Games amass, even though the basic premise has enough potential to emulate that enthusiasm for gamers.

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