Once more, the world’s most popular videogame characters team up to compete for Olympic Gold in Nintendo and Sega’s latest edition to their blockbuster franchise, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, which not only adds new events to play through and master, but all-new modes to help make this the best and most complete version yet. While the dynamic duo and their friends have done everything from fencing to curling, new activities like horseback riding and fun party modes will probably keep the Olympic fun going long after the dust settles in London. While Sega is holding onto the 3DS version a little longer, Wii users looking to limber up their mini-game muscles and get in on the Olympic fun early with a group of friends now.
It’s hard not to get excited about another match-up between the two gaming titans, as representatives from both Nintendo and Sega’s best to prove “who’s the best gaming mascot of all” never fail to bring back memories of once-impossible dream match-ups. And while these events rarely deviate from the ‘shake, shake, waggle, waggle’ variety, the real fun of the series has always been seeing familiar faces like Mario, Sonic, Luigi, Tails, Peach, Amy, and the rest compete for Olympic Gold. True, on the surface it shouldn’t even be a contest. Sonic and his animal buddies are known for speed, precision, and quick motions across dizzying chasms and circular circuits; Mario and Friends, on the other hand, have always been on the pudgy side, despite the mustachioed one’s penchant for double-axels and the occasional triple somersault jump. But looks can be deceiving, especially when we’re talking about a family-friendly casual sports title, where fairness isn’t always fair and your best efforts
It’s not exactly a secret that previous games in the series were often held back by their unwieldy – and inaccurate – controls, which hampered all but the most dedicated gamers and fans of each franchise. Diehard Sonic fans may be used to slightly imperfect controls, but Mario mainstays know just how good things can be when a little more effort is made. Ultimately, this is still the case here, though Sega has tweaked and tightened up the accuracy considerably, as well as other improvements across the board. If you’re willing to overlook the occasional missed move and inaccurate waggle, you’ll be treated to the best Olympic-themed mini-game collection yet.
With this admission out of the way we can focus on the game’s better aspects, such as the variety that many of the familiar activities and events provide, specifically the ones that rely on frequent motion waggling and rhythm-based synchronizing. Many of the most popular events are here, including new selections like badminton, soccer, and equestrianism (horseback riding), all which bring with them a new set of motion-controls to learn. Joining them are popular series mainstays archery, gymnastics, sprint racing, and others.
Dream Events add a bit of flavor to the otherwise pedestrian “normal” events, transforming activities like the long-jump into something more bizarre by mixing in elements like locations of old-school Mario and Sonic games. It’s pretty trippy seeing our athletics battle it out on familiar ground, and might be a new favorite if power-ups and bottomless pits are your thing.
Also new is the London Party mode, which feels remarkably similar to Mario Party. But unlike the dice rolling nature of the latter, four players walk around a giant map in an attempt to collect the most stickers to fill grids and chat with several non-playable characters, with the requisite Olympic events to play in-between. You’ll either enjoy this mode immensely or hate how randomly the game doles out ‘victories’, which are often not in your favor. One minute I was dominating with the most stickers, the next (for absolutely no reason whatsoever) the game decided that I should switch my complete set with a player who has the least, just to make it more ‘fair’. I felt this to be sort of pointless, as what is the use of trying your best to win if the computer gets to decide who does in the end?
For an athletic-themed party game, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games may not break the mold, but the combination of Nintendo and Sega’s best remains a solid four-player casual endeavor that fans will probably like to add to their collection. New activities like horseback riding and party modes make this the best game in the series yet, and while still not perfect, Sega’s tweaked the most frustrating issue from previous games, the inaccurate controls, to make them more reliable than ever. Newcomers should find plenty to enjoy here, although fans who have played the previous titles and were expecting radical changes, outside of the unfair London Party mode, might be disappointed somewhat. Still, it’s always fun seeing these beloved characters get together, and strike another victory for (videogame) world peace.
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