Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games USA WII-BiOSHOCK
English | Platform: Wii | Release: November 15, 2011 | Publisher: SEGA | Developer: SEGA | 4.32 GB
As we're walking into the Tower of London, they're helping out the Queen (or a very good impersonator). Further on, past the hordes of tourists peering at the magnificent prison-fortress through their camera viewfinder, there's a room full of seriously-suited business men and a sharply-dressed athlete or two. It's the most incongruous places to show off Mario & Sonic at the London Olympics we could have thought of.
Getting hands-on with the games, it's obvious the Wii version hasn't changed much from the version that sold a kajillion copies a couple of years back; the character line-up is identical, with four-player play and almost all the events from the first game returning. The styling has shifted to match the London background, which is thankfully more iconic to most gamers than the equivalent areas in Beijing were; Big Ben looms in the background, the horses ride beneath the Greenwich Observatory and badminton matches take place in the Wembley Arena.
There are just four new events: horse-riding, canoeing, football and badminton. The equestrian event (horse-riding to you and me) is played extremely straight and could have been pulled straight from Pippa Funnell; characters have to make their way atop a pony around a obstacle-riddled course in the shortest time possible. Canoeing is a two-player co-op game, which is all about your team's rhythm - paddle together and you'll zoom ahead. Badminton feels like a very light version of Mario Tennis or Virtua Tennis, with automatically-moving players wafting their rackets at the shuttlecock. If a player messes up their shot the opponent has a chance to do a special smash move, which is normally unstoppable. We didn't get to see the football, sadly.
However, merely because the older events have returned, that doesn't mean they haven't changed. In particular, SEGA has again re-imagined a few competitions as Dream Events - so the long jump has changed into a sideways scrolling Mario party game (very much like Yoshi's Island) where players must survive for as long as possible on a level with collapsing clouds, giant Bullet Bills and each other to compete with. Similarly, the Dream discus is a Sonic Adventure tribute that consists of players riding their discuses in aerial arenas and knocking each other out of the way to get rings, which determine the winner.
Finally, we got hands-on with an early version of the 3DS build. This is much more single-player focused game that really takes advantage of all the 3DS' functions. We tried a medley of preview games, starting with Judo, where you must match buttons before your opponent does; simple, but nicely animated. Similarly straightforward, the 1000m Kayak singles has you rotating the circle pad as fast as dammit.
More interesting was the balance beam, which uses the gyroscope. You have to either balance or follow a path using just the gyroscope to perform your athlete's pivots and pirouettes, before building up enough power for a perfect dismount. The breast stroke was similarly neat, making you wait for your character's face appear above the waves before you blow on the microphone to make them breath. Finally, possibly the silliest event ever devised, the 20KM race walk has you moving the stylus in a metronomic rhythm to perform perfect bottom-wiggling.
So while the games aren't exactly going to set hardcore gamers' tongues wagging, at present it promises to be a decent enough tie-in for next year's Olympics and it's always good to see Mario and Sonic back together again.
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