Sega Sports Japan
Forgive us if we aren't a little more hyped up about next year's Olympic games. There's just something about watching the vast majority of events that makes us want to do something more productive, like hammering nails into our skulls. All that hype and build up for an event that could last mere seconds really goes straight over our heads, however that's not something that we have to worry about with the incredibly long titledMario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games for Wii.
While this partnership may have seemed among the most unlikely up until just after the turn of the millennium, it is now something that we have come to accept, and London 2012 marks the third time Mario and Sonic have paired up to tackle the sporting world.
Like most Wii based sports games, those of you looking for realism or statistical accuracy can look away now. This is as undiluted a definition of a fun party game as we have ever come across. Fortunately, unlike the vast majority of party games on the Wii, it's not complete and utter turd.
The pitch is quite straightforward; Mario, Sonic and their assorted friends and franchise acquaintances have made their way to a highly stylised London in order to take part in their own version of the Olympic Games. You'll pick your character and compete against the computer controlled AI, or your friends, in order to see who can emerge victorious across a range of different events - some based on their actual Olympic counterparts, and others not so much.
As Olympics/athletics based games go, there generally hasn't been a hell of a lot of progression in the genre since the 1980s, where fierce button mashing and joystick waggling was the order of the day in games like International Track and Field, or Daley Thompson's Decathlon, so it's nice to see that Sega has managed to create their own fork in the road and build a quasi genre around some of gaming's most famous characters.
The mechanics of the events themselves haven't changed all that much though. Shaking the WiiMote like a thing possessed or hammering away on buttons is still essential if you're going to have any success, but the inclusion of more finesse based events like fencing has seen the WiiMote used to particularly great effect.
The 12 Olympics based events are pretty much what you'd expect, from the 100 metre sprint to hurdles to cycling to badminton and more, but the game really adds quite a bit to proceedings by utilising each character's personality to ensure that things are kept fresh. Whether that's Mario smashing a firey shuttlecock towards you at breakneck pace or Sonic utilising his trademark speed to pip his opponents to the finish line, the utilisation of special moves works quite well.
On top of the Olympic sports, we also have a selection of ten dream sports. These are game specific takes on established Olympic sports which well and truly leave the conventional behind in order to spice things up. While a long jump event comprising of jumping across clouds might not be what the purist is looking for from an Olympics title, it and its like really ramp up the fun factor.
On booting the game up, you'll be able to play a single event in order to take a stab at beating your best times or play in competitive or co-operative multiplayer, jump into the unlockable bonus features, or take on the main "story" mode; London Party Mode.
London Party Mode does everything it can in order to squeeze the maximum longevity from what could well have been a tiresome title. It combines top down Mario style map exploration with a wide range of characters from both game franchises, as well as plenty of mini games to keep you occupied, and the type of over the top ceremony that the Olympics is associated with.
It's certainly the most enjoyable mode, particularly with more than one player, and it's helped by the fact that you can select how long you would like the game to last (with approximate game lengths of 30 minutes, 45 minutes and 60 minutes available). The aim of the game is to compete in a series of regular events, as well as bonus games accessed by talking to the various characters dotted around the game's map, in order to win virtual stickers. The better you perform in events the more stickers you get, and the first player to complete their sticker album is declared the winner.In a nice twist, you'll also be able to use special bonus sticker spaces to remove opponents' stickers, swap sticker books with them, or just cause some all round carnage to turn things on their head.
Visually the game fares quite well, especially given the fact that the Wii is quite clearly on its last legs, and it delivers some wonderfully cartoony graphics that are sure to enthral younger players. The sound is right up there with what we have come to expect from both Sega and Nintendo in recent years, with plenty of catchy orchestral motifs on offer to keep those toes tapping.
There is by no means anything here that should be taken even remotely seriously, but if you actually sit down and give things a chance you'll find that there's a really fun and enjoyable gameplay experience on offer. It will certainly make a great Christmas present for younger kids, while those of us who like to have friends around should also be able to milk it for every drop of fun it has to offer.
It's not a classic, but it ticks enough of the right boxes to make it worth picking up.