It's hard to believe Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games exists. Before most people even open the box, they would be fully aware of the history and past rivalries between Mario and Sonic. In the 90's Sonic was the face of Sega and Mario was the face of Nintendo, and the thought of Mario and Sonic combining in a videogame seemed like a fanboy dream that would never come true. We would have preferred a different reason for partnering up but it's certainly better than no partnership. But is Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games a success or should the mascots have kept to their own series?
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is essentially a mini-game compilation with several Olympic events. We all know that Sonic would probably beat Mario any day in the track events, but this has been countered by giving each character unique attributes - so while Sonic is the fast guy, Mario is more of an all rounder. This means when it comes to events, players will need to select the most appropriate character, as you'll need to mix things up a little.
It's the wealth of mini games included that makes Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games an impressive and surprisingly deep package. There are plenty of activities on offer including the 100 metre sprint, high jump, triple jump, 400 metre hurdles, long jump, pole vault, hammer throw, javelin throw and swimming. Basically, if you can think of an Olympic event, it is probably represented in this game in some form or another. In total, there are twenty Olympic events included, which is very impressive for a mini-game compilation. Most impressive is the variation in the mini games, when it would have been quite easy for Sega to rely on getting players just to wiggle the Nunchuck and the Wii remote up and down for each event.
To unlock extra events, you'll need to participate in circuit mode, where players participate in several events in a tournament. The game also includes missions, which are basically specific objectives for specific characters. Then there are the dream events - which are regular events with a Mario and Sonic flavoured twist, such as dream fencing which gives your player special moves with a health based, rather than points based scoring system. The dream events are clearly the highlight of the game and it's a shame there weren't more included.
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games also includes Wi-Fi support, But don't get too excited. you can't race your mates across the world, and can only upload your records to the internet. You can view the world records for each event, which may be a small incentive for those who prefer to play in single player. The rankings display the country of origin for the record holder and the character they've used, it did at least help us to work out that Knuckles was best for the 100 metre sprint.
Obviously a main appeal of playing Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is that you can play as several characters from the Mushroom Kingdom or Sonic universes. All of your favourite characters from both IPs appear in the game, including Mario, Luigi, Peach, Wario, Waluigi, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Shadow and Amy. There are also a few less than welcome inclusions such as Vector and Blaze, who seem to have been added simply to fill out the character roster on Sega's side. If the character selection isn't enough for you, the game also includes Mii support. This is a fantastic option and something all Wii mini-game titles should have incorporated by now.
All is not perfect in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games though. Like with most mini-game compilations, there are some great events and some poor events. The table tennis mini-game was already in Wii Play and the improvements made to it in this title are minimal at best. The shoddy localisation is also a little bit disappointing, we don't think it would have been too hard to just change meter to metre for Australia and the UK And the fact you have to unlock almost everything is also a little frustrating. The game caters heavily to a multiplayer market, but all the events cannot be played in multiplayer from the beginning. It almost feels like the game is forcing you to experience single player before moving onto multiplayer.
When you do eventually get to multiplayer, it's just as enjoyable as you would expect. Olympic titles have always been fun in multiplayer and Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is no exception.
Mario and Sonic's debut title looks quite good on the Wii, and the sound is also impressive with some solid voice overs, and a crowd actually gets quite involved. It won't take too long to unlock all of the events, but the game also awards emblems for completing specific objectives, such as connecting to the Nintendo WFC rankings and for completing mission mode with a specific character.
The sheer wealth of content in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games makes the title easy to recommend. It is a little disappointing you'll need to play through the single player mode to access some of the multiplayer games and adding Mario and Sonic to a licensed Olympic Games title doesn't really change things the game too much (apart from adding a bit of novelty). That said, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is unquestionably one of the best Olympic titles released and a great debut for Mario and Sonic. Now for that 2D platformer...