Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games Playtest: Minigames For All!
Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games is a game very heavy on content. There are 57 events to partake in, not to mention a very extensive story mode that actually becomes quite challenging as you go on, and also a number of items and prizes to win.
What I was most impressed with, though, was the sheer cast in the game. I confess I’m not the most familiar with Sonic characters, but even I’ve heard of Shadow, Tails and Dr. Eggman. However, I hadn’t heard of Metal Sonic, Silver, Vector, or Blaze. An extremely wide range of characters are available for single-player mode for the Mario cast as well, including Wario, Daisy, Donkey Kong, and Bowser Jr. More characters appear in the story mode, although it doesn’t appear you can choose to play as them.
Hearing each of them talk in their own way is actually really entertaining and I found it kind of hilarious that some spoke in clackity-clack (Dry Bones) or ook-ook (D.K.).
The game is split into three main playing modes. The first is the story mode. Then there’s the single-player event mode, and finally the multiplayer event mode. I didn’t get to try the multiplayer mode; however, I do know there are online rankings that allow you to compete with others online. You can also use local play or 3DS download play, allowing you to play with others who don’t have the cartridge.
The story mode is … interesting. The wide cast of characters from both Mario’s universe and Sonic’s universe somehow hop dimensions and end up in London for the 2012 Olympics. It makes for friendly rivalry between everyone, protagonist and antagonist alike, and a perfect place for casual (but intense) miniature Olympic events that are strangely treated very similar to Pokémon battles. Of course, trouble brews and it’s up to everyone to find out why there is such a heavy fog veiling London, preventing the progression of the games. Between the main characters — Mario, Luigi, Sonic, and Tails — they must figure out how to lift the fog before the events are halted for good.
I like to think of the story mode as a very elaborate introduction to a good majority of the events. I believe that I encountered 52 or so of the events available in the game in this mode, and I felt encouraged to play through them all. It’s also kind of fun seeing all the characters animated in a colorful, vivid fashion that is cartoony but also vibrant. I liked being able to see some shots of famous London sights, even if they probably were heavily simplified.
Unfortunately, for me, the 3D didn’t do much for the game, so I kept it off most of the time.
Surprisingly, story mode actually gets pretty challenging. The AI opponents get higher and higher points in the games as you continue, so by the end, you’ll find it harder to win and continue. In addition, after you finish the main route, there are events showing what the antagonists are up to, as well as some of the less-focused groups. These post-game routes, though, are extremely difficult.
To me, single player mode is best explained as Mario Party without the board game. It’s just minigame after minigame. It also allows you to unlock medleys (collection of 1 – 5 events in a row) as you play through them, which you can then use in multiplayer mode, I believe. You can also create your own medleys and trade them with friends.
Completing events earns you coins, which you can then use to buy badges. However, badges are given via a capsule machine and are random, so it would take a lot of playing to collect all 200 badges. These badges are used to personify your online appearance.
I keep talking about events and minigames, but I haven’t actually described any of them yet. Well, since this is the London 2012 Olympic games, all the events are miniature games that last for less than a minute. These include more well-known events such as balance beam, rings, pole vault, the shot put, synchronized platform diving, and archery to less known events such as the 20km race walk, equestrian show jumping, BMX, sailing, and canoe slalom. (At the very least, they’re not really broadcasted here in America.) I found that the game was actually very educational on what sort of events appeared in the game without being tedious.
The controls vary significantly between each game. There are five modes of controls — Circle Pad, microphone, buttons, stylus, and tilt. Games may use any combination of these. For example, sailing requires you to adjust your angle with the Circle Pad and then blow into the microphone for the wind. The hammer throw requires you to press L+R to grab the hammer, and then tilt the 3DS round and round to speed the hammer up before releasing L+R to send the thing flying in the right direction.
The games all come up with new and creative ways to use the controls. Sometimes, they specifically par down certain controls to keep it simple, yet fresh. For example, the 25m rapid fire pistol only has the screen moving horizontally over a set of 5 targets. However, you have to time the R trigger across so that you hit as close to the center of the targets as possible to earn the most points.
At first, it’s pretty slow, but then it speeds up, and then it speeds up even more as you go through a total of 15 targets.
Luckily, there’s no need to remember any of the controls. There’s a short tutorial screen before the start of each event that tells you what controls are being used and how. I’ve found the explanations somewhat lacking occasionally, though, so it sometimes takes a few tries to learn how to play a game. The events are always easy to restart, though, with the simple press of the Start button to open the menu.
That’s another thing I really liked about Mario & Sonic. The interface is very user-friendly and very visually appealing. It’s interesting just how much information they manage to cram into the (relatively) tiny 3DS screen. There are always options available to bring you where you want to go, whether you want to restart the event, go back to select another challenge, go back to select another episode in the story mode, or to return to the title menu. It’s all very streamlined and quick. I love the amount of effort that went into this game.
It’s a shame you can’t play against others through Wi-Fi, since Mario & Sonic is a heavily multiplayer game, but single-player mode provides enough of a challenge for a while. There are certainly enough events to practice on, and they’re not easy to perfect.
I also love to play as some of the characters and … really, there’s nothing quite as interesting as seeing Tails hold a fencing Epeé or Bowser Jr. doing back flips on the floor exercises.
Food for thought:
1. You can see what your ranking between different controls and different genres of games are. I’m apparently best with the circle pad and worst with the tilt controls, and best at rhythm games and worst at do-or-die games.
2. I don’t keep up with Olympic news, so I was very surprised to see … one-eyed alien balloons everywhere. Apparently they’re the London 2012 Olympic mascots?