Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games DS
Published by: SEGA
Developed by: SEGA
Release Date: Out Now
We are only months away from the Beijing Olympic Games but Team Mario and Team Sonic are here to get us in the mood with their own version of the Olympic Games. The game features 16 authentic Olympic events such as 400m Hurdles, Long Jump and Archery, 16 playable characters (a mix of SEGA and Nintendo characters), single-card and multi-card play for up to four players. It’s one of those games that works equally well as a single player or multiplayer title and it’s no surprise to find, at the time of writing, that the game has already been at the top of the UK games sales chart for a few weeks.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games offers Single Match, Circuit and Mission as its single-player modes. Single Match allows you to play a single event with a character of your choice. Circuit allows you to play through a series of events, grouped to make up mini-tournaments, with the idea being to win enough points in each event to be firmly placed at the top of the leaderboard when all the events have been completed. You have the option of playing a ‘Circuit Chance’ for one of the events which will yield double points for that event. Mission Mode allows you to play through the missions for each of the game’s characters. These missions involve finishing in a certain place or beating a certain time etc. Up to four players can take part in single-card and multi-card multiplayer games. Single-card play limits you to a choice of six events whereas multi-card games allow you to compete in all of the events. You can’t play online using the Wi-Fi connection service but you can upload your times and see where you’re placed on the leaderboard.
SEGA and Nintendo are equally represented with eight characters from each. For Nintendo there is Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Yoshi, Wario, Waluigi and Bowser. The characters representing SEGA are Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Shadow, Blaze, Vector and Dr. Eggman. Each character has four attributes: speed, power, skill and stamina and is classed as being one of four types: power type, all-round, speed type and skill type. The differences between the characters aren’t as pronounced as you might think however. After all, in theory Sonic should breeze past most of the other characters when it comes to any event that relies on speed. This isn’t the case, probably for the simple reason that it would make the game unbalanced, but it’s strange to see the rather portly Mario giving Sonic a run for his money.
The game is essentially a collection of mini-games and on the whole the quality of them is mixed with some being rather enjoyable and a few being rather disappointing (Fencing just doesn’t feel right). There are several ‘Dream’ variations of the events that can be unlocked as you achieve certain goals in the game. These variations are interesting and add a welcome twist to the events. It’s a little curious that not all of the events require you to use the stylus, particularly when you consider that events such as the typical button bashing events (such as the 400m and the Long Jump) use the stylus exclusively and rather well too. Table Tennis, for instance, requires you to use the directional pad and the A, B and X buttons. Surely an adequate control scheme using the stylus could have been created for such events? You could argue that most of the events are rather too simplistic but had there been too much complexity here, it would have been not quite so appealing to younger gamers.
I was surprised at how good Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games looked on the DS. The character models are quite large and are certainly as impressive as any of the 3D character models I’ve seen on the DS to date. The game may have been developed by SEGA but the developers have managed to capture the essence of the Nintendo characters very nicely. As you’d expect, the game uses a bright and cheery palette. Both of the screens are used to good effect and for the most part the use of both screens is impressive. I would have preferred the Table Tennis game to have the table displayed on just the one screen (personally, I found it rather distracting having the table spread over the two screens) but this is only a minor niggle.
Deaf gamers shouldn’t have any problems with the game. There are some announcer/commentator comments that aren’t subtitled and when you select which character to play as there are no subtitles for the comments. During a game there are a few character comments, such as Mario saying “Oh no!” during a game of table tennis when he’s lost a point, which aren’t subtitled. However either of these omissions are a problem. All of the game instructions are shown in text and can be accessed before starting a game. The game does make use of the microphone but it’s nothing that will cause deaf gamers any problems. For instance, the Long Jump allows you to clap into the microphone to try and get the crowd going before you make the jump (with the idea being that an excited crowd will help your character perform better).
It’s easy to see just why Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games for the Nintendo DS has been so popular. As a single-player game it’s fairly run of the mill stuff with a few highlights here and there. The game isn’t just about frantic button bashing and the developers have made clever use of the touch screen with the majority of the events. The real novelty comes with having a good collection of SEGA and Nintendo characters in the same game. As a multiplayer game the game is enjoyable and can soak up hours of your time and thanks to the game allowing you to play with three other players using a single card, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the fun with your DS-owning friends. The real disappointment here is that the Wi-Fi service is just for uploading your times/scores and not for playing against gamers from around the world. Minor disappointments aside, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is enjoyable and a game that most of the family will appreciate.