If you can’t beat them, join them.
Sega and Nintendo were once bitter rivals in the gaming industry — now they have come together for one massive sporting event to see who is still at the top of their game. Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario & Luigi, and a star-studded cast of supporting heroes (and villains) from both sides are vying for the title of Virtual Olympic Champion. Who will emerge victorious? Only your nimble hands can decide.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games marks the first time that both revered mascots make a presence in the same game. It isn’t quite the “match made in heaven” that most of us expected (who would’ve guessed that they would be headlining the official video game of the Beijing 2008 Olympics!), but if you’re up for a bunch of mini–games based on real–life Olympic events and don’t mind A LOT of Wii Remote waggling — let the games begin!
There are over twenty events to partake in, all classed into distinct categories: gymnastics, shooting, aquatics, rowing, archery and track & field. Each event mirrors its real–life counterpart rather well — for archery you’ll need to take aim by pulling back the remote from the nunchuk much like a drawstring from its bow, the 100m sprints call for rapid-fire waggling, and the drawn–out 400m races require precision pacing with carefully timed boosting. Every action is governed by your motions and if you hope to finish in first place consistently, make sure you have a good feed beforehand — your arms will definitely get one heck of a workout!
Should you need some “time out” from the competitiveness of the myriad of circuits and missions (similar to the set–up in Mario Kart DS), there are “Dream Events” to participate in which take classic Olympic sports, such as fencing and table tennis, to the extreme — build up enough power and you can unleash some wicked–looking special moves that can cause major damage, like Yoshi’s super tongue-thrust, or induce all sorts of trickery, like turning table tennis balls invisible. One of them – the Dream Race – is a combination of the Olympic sprinting event and Mario Kart battle items, and it’s one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen: red shells homing into racers in front, thunderbolts screwing up others’ momentum, sand traps and hurdles that need to be jumped in time – all the while with lots and lots of waggling!
Are you more of a casual gamer who enjoys such gimmicky controls that only the Wii can afford? If so, and if you have up to three other friends or family members to join in the games, Mario & Sonic is brilliant fun. The events themselves aren’t all that great and although a range of motions are used for each one, it all boils down to ceaseless waggling — there isn’t much depth here. However, there are a ton of medals, trophies, emblems and more to obtain, usually awarded for top performances or by achieving unique goals. Think you have set an unbeatable record? How about you share your scores with the rest of the world and see how you compare — Wi-Fi connectivity makes this entirely possible and you can represent whatever country you wish, too — let’s go New Zealand!
All up, this is good physical fun that’s best enjoyed with lots of participants and keen spectators to cheer/jeer everyone on. It’s not quite the quality experience I expected from two of the most esteemed houses in video gaming, nor is it as uplifting as going out and running 400m of track or similar, but for all intents and purposes, Mario & Sonic deliver a party of Olympic-sized proportions that’s well worth the price of admission.