Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games: Can success strike thrice?
16th May 2011 | 11:00
Mario & Sonic's version of East London is a lot prettier than the real thing. For one, it's got Big Ben and red bus-loads of Toads and Chaos in it, and there's not a chicken shop or West Ham fan in sight (although the latter are quite attractive).
Sega's blue sky-clad Greenwich Park and colourful Stratford site are charming and beautiful in a way that only the world of gaming's greatest mascots can be.
But Sega's got bigger hurdles to conquer than just making Pat Butcher's back garden look glamorous; it's got to surprise with the third instalment on an officially soon-to-be-succeeded platform, and live up to the incredible sales numbers (19 million and counting) of one of gaming's biggest success stories. And how does it do that? By going bigger, bigger, bigger...
Over 100 developers are busily constructing a Mario & Sonic sequel that in pure volume at least is said to be "much bigger" than its predecessors - and Sega swears it's not simply "going to rest on past success".
Of the 31 venues planned to hold events across the UK, 11 will appear on the Wii version and 20 are set for the new Nintendo 3DS edition, which will also contain a stonking 50+ sports.
The Wii version promises both new events, including football, badminton and equestrian, plus improved favourites such as 100m sprint, recreated Dream Events and a mysterious 'Party Mode' which Sega isn't keen to talk about just yet.
The 3DS meanwhile will focus on presenting new ways to play through the Olympic events, utilising the handheld's gyroscope, touch screen and microphone.
The first event we managed to get our hands-on in the Wii version was Dream Long Jump, one of the many new and imaginative 'Dream' games set to return for the third game (Sega notes them as a fan favourite).
Like the last games Sega's been set free to explore the universes of the Mario & Sonic series in nostalgia-filled arcade games, and London Olympics doesn't look to disappoint. Dream Long Jump's Mario course is straight out of the gorgeous Yoshi's Story, complete with a patchwork sky and quilted clouds to hop on top of.
The event kicks off with four characters (CPU or player-controlled) taking a sprint before leaping off on to a sea of clouds. Players must then hop and jump across the knitted platforms and progress as far as possible, all the while dodging enemies, giant Bullet Bills and hampering opponents by destroying clouds with a 2 button stomp.
The second Dream Event we tried was Dream Discus, and although loosely tied to the original sport at best, it was just as frantic and expectedly nostalgic, taking place in the Windy Valley stage of Sonic Adventure.
Up to four players launch themselves on a disc into an on-rails air ride around the level, tilting and moving the Wii Remote to collect rings, dodge enemies and attempt to barge opponents into incoming scenery.
The event cumulated in a giant tornado thrusting the four players miles in the air, and we were then challenged with landing Monkey Ball-style on a giant target, boosting our final score further.
THE LAST HURDLE
Like the last Mario & Sonic game the Dream events were definite highlights of our time with the London game. Unfortunately, the 'main' events on show lacked the instant pick-up-and-play fun factor boasted by the more creative activities.
The first 'main' event we managed to get our hands-on in the Wii version of London Olympics was Show Jumping, set in a sunnier and less Millwall fan-filled Greenwich Park.
For the third instalment Sega's introduced the option to play events in versus, team versus or co-operative, and like its predecessors London Olympics looks incredibly accessible with multiple control schemes available for Wii Remote, Wii Remote plus Nunchuk and more.
Here we hopped Yoshi aboard his Horse (a dinosaur riding a horse?!) with just the Wii Remote, galloping with a thrust of the remote and 'turning' by tilting the controller.
Unfortunately, in our brief hands-on, Mario & Sonic London's use of the Wii Remote felt less responsive than the top titles on the system and we were yet again left mourning the lack of MotionPlus support (Sega says there simply isn't a big enough install base for the add-on).
Canoeing fared better, tasking players with 'rowing' in synch, with shrinking circles over the on-screen characters indicating when you should stroke the air with your Wii Remote. But it's still difficult to see how much imagination will be on offer without the inclusion of the more advanced motion controls.
But on a positive note Sega looks to be going big on the series' strong point, the Dream events, and at the very least the Wii could enjoy the arrival of another solid party game in time for Christmas. Which is far healthier than six hotwings for a quid.