With Beijing only a few months away SEGA (finally) bring us the handheld dose of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, a game that wasoriginally to be released along side the Wii version in November.
Better late than never, that's what we say. Mario and Sonic are joined by a cast of 14 other franchise favourites such as Wario, Tails, Yoshi, Eggman etc which have all been pigeon holed into four categories, Power Type, All Around, Speed Type and Skill Type. When choosing a character the category does have a slight baring on which events come naturally to your chosen one.
Mario and Sonic is exactly what you'd expect, its a collection of mini games based on real Olympic events, to make things alittle more exciting SEGA have included some unlockable "Dream Events" which take things to the extreme way that only Mario or Sonic could deliver.
The real life events available in the DS version do differ slightly from the selection on offer in the Wii counterpart, the DS has the same core events with some new ones thrown in. Of course the usual Athletics are present, 100m sprint, long jump, javelin etc, then we also have swimming, gymnastics, archery, table tennis, fencing, skeet shooting and cycling.
Dream events are unlocked after you progress through the "real life" events, a total of eight dream events are available including some rather entertaining events such as Dream Canoe, Dream Boxing and Dream Basketball!
One of the best parts of the Wii version was the innovation SEGA brought to the table in terms of control, every previous Olympic game relied on speedy button bashing - whereas M&S at least tries to somewhat replicate what yourcharacter is doing on-screen, this is no expect with the DS version you'll find yourself drawing on the screen frequently and furiously. The main new event for DS is cycling, continuing the theme of "realism" which is played by alternating presses on the L and R shoulder buttons as if they were peddles. Pretty neat.
Pretty much all the events control well and make good use of the DS control system consisting of rubbing, touching and aiming, there's a good mix of events in which there is something for everyone. Before you start each event your given the chance to read through the control notes, a must for first timers but you soon get the hang of things.
Quite obviously there isn't alot of depth to the game once you've tried all the events. There are four modes of play, Single Match, Circuit, Mission and Multiplayer. Circuit sees you complete a number of events where points are added together to calculate your final score, a mini decathlon if you will. Mission mode is something that often appears in sports games as a "filler" mode, basically its a list of scenarios (your in last place with 100m to go etc) in which you compete to win.Multiplayer is adequate but has no comparison to the fun of the frantic Wii version.
As a single player game its somewhat shallow and soon gets tiring, because of the nature of the events very few actually have any form of AI and the ones that do aren't a match for anyone with a history of game experience. Given the time and some friends you'll certainly have more joy inmultiplayer and online modes.
M&S has been clearly been crafted by a talented team, no doubt with abit of help from the "Nintendo Polish TM" team, everything comes together in a neat little package, its graphically and audibly well presented and makesalot of sense.
SEGA have done a great job and to be frank, an Olympic-themed game couldn't really be any better on a limiting handheld machine, sadly it lacks any feeling of human competition that theWii version brings. It's purely and simply not as much fun as the Wii version, people who have played that already might be slightly disappointed.
Whilst M&S has made a successful hop, skip and jump over to Nintendo's handheld, it doesn't quite reach the heights of its older, wiser Wii incarnation. Basically Wii owners don't really need to visit this version of the game, but non-Wii owners might want to give it a time-trial, it's likely they'll find something enjoyable inside.