A couple of months ago we received a review copy Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games for the Wii. So you can understand the feelings of déjà-vu I had when I recently received yet another copy of Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, only this time for the Nintendo 3DS. But does this portable edition of the former rivals’ quest for gold hold up, or does it fall flat a few inches from the finish line?
Let me start off by pointing out the 3DS version is a brand new experience that differs from what we saw on Nintendo’s home console. This time around the entire experience is less about having fun with friends and more about quick little mini-games on the go. Everything has been streamlined for ‘pick up and play’ sessions, like shorter games that can last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or two. While this streamlining does make it a better fit for gaming on the go, some of the cuts that had to be made along the way are rather disappointing.
Believe it or not, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games on 3DS actually features a fully fledged story mode. Here our heroes are tasked with stopping Dr. Eggman and Bowser’s scheme to put a stop to the London Olympics by making the city foggy (I think Mother Nature beat you guys to it). The levels are all divided into separate episodes that feature a long-winded cutscene, followed by several Olympic-themed mini-games and finishing with yet another long-winded cutscene. Annoying intermissions aside, the story mode itself is a very well rounded experience that does a great job of introducing you to all there is in the game. It also gives the whole package much more of a ‘Mario & Sonic’ vibe than a formal Olympic offering.
Sadly, the addition of the story mode seems to have come at the cost of two of the better modes from the Wii version. Both London Party (think of it as Mario Party, only held in the Olympic Village) and the Dream Events - the best aspects of the Wii edition - are nowhere to be found. In their place are over 50 Olympic-themed mini-games that run the gambit from good, to mediocre, to cringe worthy, which appears to be par for the course for this series.
Still, there's plenty of fun to be had with Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games... if you know where to look. Games like archery, speed walking (oddly enough) and shooting are all a blast to play, while the likes of weightlifting and marathon events (I had no idea grabbing water bottles was an Olympic event) should only be played once... if at all. The rest of the package is filled with mediocre mini-games that will entertain for a few minutes but don’t really stand out as ‘must plays’.
The developers chose to utilize all of the handheld's features - traditional buttons, touch screen commands, voice control, and motion sensors - but seemingly without restraint. Take a couple of quick examples: using the gyroscope to aim a bow and arrow down field is fine. Forcing you to blow into the microphone to move a sailboat while using the circle pad to steer? Not so much. Furthermore, if the mini-games were shrunk down to be more suited for gaming while out and about, why include some that force you to yell at your system and wave it around like you're throwing a fit?
It’s testament to the power of the 3DS that screenshots of the portable version can be mistaken for those from the console one. Naturally, the more graphically ‘intense’ moments from the Wii title, like London Party and the Dream Events, are nowhere to be found on the 3DS, but they've done a great job of bringing the look and feel of the console experience to the palm of your hand nonetheless. The main complaint I have is that the backgrounds are a tad ‘foggy’, a problem it shares with the Wii version.
Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games also makes use of the platform's most vaunted capability: three dimensional visuals. And while not a tour de force of the system's potential, Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games does a solid job of giving the player some 3D goodness to look at. Most of the mini-games have been remade to be played at angles that will provide the most 3D ‘pop’, and the menus all have stand-out elements as well. I do have to mention, however, that by making some mini-games more ‘3D friendly’ they also become harder to play, since the camera angle is not lined up with what’s coming up ahead but more to the side (I’m looking at you track and field!).
The soundtrack is pretty much par for the course for Mario & Sonic’s Olympic adventures, with most of the tunes sounding like a blend of the Olympic anthem mixed with Mario & Sonic sound effects. I was really disappointed, however, to find that the custom soundtracks featuring songs from past Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog games don't feature in the 3DS version; unlocking these songs and setting them to the various events introduced a surprisingly enjoyable element of customisation in the Wii version.
While more than 50 mini-games may sound like a lot, there are only a select few that demand replaying, but for the truly engrossed the game does offer a good deal of replayability. All of the mini games can be tackled on three difficulty levels. You can also upload your best times to the online leaderboards, to see if you stand a chance of actually competing in the Olympics... well, maybe not. The game even features multiplayer support for up to four players, either through download play (if only one person owns the game) or through local play. Finally, there are a fair amount of unlockable ‘badges’ (200 in all) that you earn in the same way that you would achievements or trophies. These badges can then be displayed on your online profile. Sadly, however, this is the only thing that you will be unlocking in the game, as all of the characters and events are all available right from the start. Another feature from the Wii version that did not make its way over to the 3DS is the ability to use your own Mii as a playable character, which is a real shame as I loved dressing my mini Mii up in ridiculous costumes.
At the end of the day, I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised with the 3DS version of Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Some of the mini-games are throwaways, and many of the best features from the Wii version remain console exclusive, but if you’re looking for an enjoyable mini-game collection on the go, with a decent single player experience and fun multiplayer options thrown into the mix, then you really can’t go wrong with this trip to foggy (Bowser did it!) ol’ London.
This review is based on a Nintendo 3DS copy of Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, provided by the publisher.