Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii)

I have been playing a fair bit of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games over the last week. Still not enough to unlock anything, but I have gotten a fair feel for most of the basic events. I think the game is a bit hit and miss in its controls and difficulty so far.

So, without further ado, is a breakdown of my thoughts by event:

100m Dash- This one is pretty basic. The first time I tried my hand at it, I lost badly, but I have since won some races, so I think it has a decent enough difficulty curve.

100m Freestyle Swimming- Now this is much better than 100m Dash. I like the variety of control schemes that each correspond to a different swimming style. It allows the player to find a control they are comfortable with. I, for one, prefer the butterfly so far. The addition of a timing element with breathing to control stamina recovery also adds a bit more to the event. It is the only event I have a world record in. I think it is one of the best events in the starting set.

Long Jump- Not bad, but it seems rather difficult to get a good score in it. I like the simplicity of the concept behind it.

Javelin Throw- It is a lot like Long Jump in control, but the greater precision to its scoring based on the differences in distance between the sports gives the player a better idea of how well they are doing. Its one weakness is that it is hard to tell how close your character will land to the foul line, so it is way too easy to foul out.

Hammer Throw- My brother has an Olympic record already. I like it the event overall. The only trick is that it takes a few tries to get used to swinging the hammer right.

Trampoline- Another good event. The mix of input timing and inputting sequences of buttons works really well. It makes me wish for a greater representation of similar gymnastic or diving events overall. A simpler event where you only had to worry about the command input and not the timing would have been nice to have. Maybe floor gymnastics?

Skeet- This event can humble someone who thinks he is a good shot. The skeet are fast. However, it is a good challenge for someone to get better at shooting with the Wii remote. I like the addition of the timing element to represent the shooter trying to stay calm. I need to try my luck at this one more.

Table-Tennis Singles- This is where the trouble starts. Table-tennis is hard. I am someone who has played videogames for years, and was passably good at Wii Tennis, but this game seems impossible. Unfortunately, bad controls may be at play. While the basic idea behind the controls seems to be good, they are not responsive enough. Particularly, the backhand seems to not work well. Trying to do an accurate rendition of a backhand hit causes the character to hit way too early. Compared to Wii Tennis, there is little time to react. And the opponents are too strong for a beginner to face and hope to win.

Individual Epee fencing- This is the one event where the game design just seems poor. The designers tried to create a system based on a rock-paper-scissors approach, where feint beats parry, parry beats thrust, and thrust beats feint. However, only thrusts score points and feints are useless. Most of all, a system like that doesn't really work in an environment where the players are moving around and can attack freely. It devolves into an exercise of spamming parries until you opponent attacks, or just spamming attacks, trying to futilely guess what your opponent is thinking. Luck seems to be a bigger factor than skill.

If I was designing this event, I would have based it more on the old quick-draw minigame from the old Kirby games. Once the signal is given, both players thrust their remotes forward, and the faster player wins a point. From what I have seen, real Olympic fencing matches seem to go that fast. Variations using different movements could be used in other fencing events such as saber.

I will post more thoughts some other time.

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