Released in time for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, the original "Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games" quickly became one of my favorite Wii titles. My kids and I loved competing against each other in the various track and field events using our favorite characters from the classic franchises.
Now to celebrate this year's Summer Games in London, the two iconic mascots and their friends are back in "Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games." And this time, they've traded the Wii's motion controls for the three-dimensional playground of the Nintendo 3DS.
In moving to the 3DS, "Mario & Sonic 2012" makes some concessions to the console formula that I've enjoyed so much. First and foremost, "Mario & Sonic 2012" presents more than 50 events and activities in mini-game form. These bite-sized segments of gameplay make full use of the various capabilities of the 3DS, but the fun-factor varies greatly from one event to the next.
I liked the traditional track and field events most, and the cycling challenges were interesting, but games like judo, basketball and gymnastics really didn't do much for me or my kids. Still, the different ways in which the 3DS is used to play those games helped keep things fresh. I could have done without having to shout into the microphone during the weightlifting competition, and maneuvering the 3DS in space to shoot a basketball proved to be rather difficult, but Sega deserves credit for building the game to take advantage of everything the 3DS offers, even if the execution is a bit uneven.
"Mario & Sonic 2012" offers traditional solo play in which your high scores are tracked on a global leaderboard, as well as a full story mode. But the fun really starts once you get a few friends together for local multiplayer competition. Creating custom event medleys allows players to pick and choose their favorite mini-games - thus avoiding the bad ones - or you can simply compete in a randomly selected group of events. The lack of true online multiplayer is a bit disappointing, but something I've come to accept from most 3DS titles. I also was befuddled by the rigid character selection process that denied me the ability to take a single character through multiple events.
Despite its flaws, "Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games" still offers plenty of fun. But while the move to the 3DS allows for some creative new control options, the hit-or-miss nature takes away from some of the overall enjoyment. As a fan of the series, I found myself content with what "Mario & Sonic 2012" had to offer, but couldn't help but be a bit disappointed that it didn't deliver a more consistent effort.
"Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games"
Available for: Nintendo 3DS ($39.99)
Rating: E for everyone