Friday, August 22, 2008


Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games

So the first problem with Mario vs. Sonic at the Olympic Games is that they're not fooling anyone, and they know it.


Mario vs. Sonic was an interesting rivalry back when they represented companies that were real-world rivals. But now look what's come of them. Mario has become Nintendo's jovial, but tired, figurehead, stepping up once per generation for a token adventure game before settling back into the comfortable rut of Parties, Sports games, and the occasional DDR. And Sonic? Poor Sonic. Year after year, he struggles to reinvent himself and give his career a kick-start. He makes enough money to get by, but he can't help thinking back to those glory days, when he had two cartoon shows and endorsements lined up down the block. Now he doesn't even have a console to front for.

It's less a clash of the titans, and more Vanilla Ice opening for The Beatles.

The other problem with Sonic The Hedgehog's Olympics With Mario is that it is not Ham Ham Games. Look, they have an opportunity to make a game that's about the Summer Olympics. But, give or take a gorgeous opening cinema, they present the events without any feeling of context or progression. The best they can offer is a "circuit" of events, where you earn points based on how well you place, and the highest scores get a trophy.

For as much as they play up the idea of Mario and Sonic "teams" on the back of the box, you don't get to see much of it in the actual gameplay. When you play as Mario, Luigi is just as much your rival as Sonic is. You never really get the feeling that Mobius and the Mushroom Kingdom are competing as different "countries".

And then there's the worst problem. Ham Ham Games will guide you through an entire season of Hamster Games regardless of your ability level, just like in real life. You still get to see the "end" of the game even if you never even manage a bronze medal in a single event. In Super Mario Olympics, however, the "circuit" system ensures that you will never, ever see the entire content of this disc unless you devote several frustrating hours to mastering its waggly game mechanics.

Why are so many events locked up from the beginning? Why do they make it so difficult to unlock them? Why do I have to break supposed World Records just to place in some of these circuits? What the hell is wrong with these people? Do they think that's fun?

That's Out of My System

Mario and Sonic Vs. The Olympic Games is a competent enough track and field game. In the tradition of track and field games, it represents Olympic events with brief gameplay experiences that involve timing and vigorous real-world activity. And since it's on the Wii, that means shaking the controller around.

The Olympic Games: Mario and Sonic Edition fills a niche that I wanted to see filled, but it's not necessarily the game I wanted. All well, at least now I won't have to buy another track and field game ever again.


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