Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games - A Game Review

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With China's human rights records being in question, this year's Olympics has the potential of eclipsing both the Atlanta and Greece Olympics in terms of controversy. As a refresher, a bomb exploded during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and while there were no bombs in the 2004 Greece Olympics, the organizers had a 1.5 billion US dollars bill, just for security!

One can expect protests and outright boycotts from athletes for the Beijing Games over China's human rights records but this hasn't stop Nintendo and Sega from coming up with "the first official game of the 2008 Summer Olympics". If that isn't enough, the game features two video game icons normally associated as rivals back when Sega was still making consoles, Mario and Sonic.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games for the NIntendo DS, like the Olympics Games, is a multi-sport event. Instead of national athletes the game pits the cast of various Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog games, such as Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Dr Eggman and Sonic in a variety of sporting events. The "athletes" are grouped into categories such as all-rounders, power type, skill type and speed type.... I didn't know Peach was skillful in anything except being kidnapped all the time.

The single player mode offers up Single Match play, where players compete in a single event such as swimming, table tennis, and track and field events (100 meters dash, etc). The Circuit mode basically packages these single events together and the Mission mode will have players playing mini games in particular events such as jumping successfully three times for a total over 20 meters in the Long Jump event.

Here's a piece of trivia: The venue for the events featured in this game take the names of the actual venues in the Beijing Olympics. So, if you have played this game and someone were to ask you where are the cycling events held during the Beijing Olympics, answer confidently. "It's at the Laoshan Velodrome!" I feel smarter already.

While the game looks a little raw graphics wise, the developers peppered the game with voice work for each of the characters and for the announcements that occur during the events. An even nicer touch would be the playback which occurs at the end of the event, so you'll get to see how well (or poorly) you fared.

During the course of the game, you rake up medals, trophies, emblems and crowns, giving you a sense of achievement which while not the same as winning a medal in the actual Olympics, is actually something :). The game only offers up local WiFi multiplayer and the Nintendo WFC functionality (seen on the cover of the game) is for uploading and checking your global rankings.

Last but not least, the Gallery mode will have gamers playing mini-games (again, Sega games are chokeful of mini games, don't you think?) to unlock bits of Olympic trivia. No doubt another enterprise to impress your pals. "Why are the Olympic Games held every four years?" "Because the ancient Olympic Games that took place in Olympia, Greece were held every four years" LOL.

Mario & Sonic makes for a pretty decent casual game, and hardcore gamers wouldn't be left out too since button mashing to new records (a wet dream for real athletes) and rewards galore is the order of game. More so, this game answers the age-old online discussion favourite, who will win in a 100 meter dash? Sonic or Mario?

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games and other games for the Nintendo DS are available at Play-Asia, with free international shipping to certain countries. Click here for purchase details.