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For a fifth time, Mario and Sonic are heading off to the Olympic Games to see who’s the best at running, jumping, and wearing medals. Yes, it’s Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which means another bout of minigames for your Nintendo 3DS. Question is, should you go for gold and score this tie-in title, or dash at the first sight of it?
Off the bat, Rio 2016 is a mixed bag of sweets and sours for all players. This particular offering contains chocolates and raisins, pizzas and stale bread, and puddings with parsley instead of mint. You’ll need to endure a lot in Rio 2016, more than just this review of metaphor salad.
The game consists of several different modes, Quick Play, Road to Rio, Versus Mode, and Pocket Marathon. All of it sounds like a lot, an all-you-can-eat buffet of roasts and pies, until you realise the over-padding of crust and what can only be assumed to be boiled fat.
The single-player burger
Firstly, the Quick Play mode offers you an easy drive-through meal for one. A selection of hastily-made suppers at your fingertips, just waiting to be consumed while you sit in your room, alone, eating through what is advertised as a quarter-pound of some or other meat product.
And, yes, you can play all of these games without having to go through the story mode. Some of them are fun, some of them are under-developed, missed opportunities of games that could have been.
Out of the lot, football, golf, and BMX, all have the most potential, but nothing that’s realised. They’re stripped down versions of games that should have more substance to them. These may be perfectly fine for children, or people looking for light games on the go, but not for anyone wanting to sit down to some serious challenges. At least the inclusion of alternate challenges, usually involving items, spices things up a bit.
Versus mode is self-explanatory; a large party-style budget pizza you and your friends pitch in for during movie night
Continuing this degradation are the characters, or more specifically how they’re usable in these minigames. Similar to fighting titles, it’s normal to lock characters until sufficient progress has been made. What isn’t normal, however, is how all of the characters aren’t available for all of the games. Would you like to play with Shadow the Hedgehog in a game of golf, or see how Bowser fairs during swimming? Well, tough, because the developers have decided only certain characters are available for each event. Even though each one has different stats, it makes grinding for these mascots almost meaningless.
And like the burger-for-one, you’ll regret paying for extra condiments that just weren’t included with your purchase. You can only dream of dipping your fries into that heavenly BBQ sauce, something that isn’t on the menu, but it’s too late to drive back to the store now.
The soon forgotten Versus mode party pizza
Much like Quick Play, Versus mode is self-explanatory; a large party-style budget pizza you and your friends pitch in for during movie night. You’ll play against others either by local or download play. There are some novelty titles for these uses, as mentioned earlier, but after a weekend, you’ll all move onto the next thing that’s quick to grab your attention.
There’s not a lot here that will bring players back for multiple multiplayer bouts. Where this mode lets itself down is the lack of any online multiplayer, instead, you’re allowed to upload your scores to leaderboards in order to compete with random people and your friends.
And similar to the aforementioned pizza, stuffed with cheese, and pastrami, and all manner of mushrooms, after a few hours of sitting out on the counter it’ll attract flies, grow old, and just end up in the bin the next day.
The indulgent Road to Rio steak dinner
And then we come to the heart of Rio 2016, the delectable treat you’ve waited for all this time. It’s something you can sink your teeth into; a meaty, wholesome chunk of deliciousness to really justify the price of admission.
At the start of this mode, your Mii arrives in Rio and are immediately asked to choose between joining Mario or Sonic’s gym. It’s almost as abrupt as Professor Oak asking if you’re a boy or a girl, because in the world of the Olympics you either support SEGA or Nintendo. Do or die. It’s the 90s all over again.
There’s a bitter rivalry between the gyms and after five minutes you’ll stop caring and move on with your life, wondering why you picked peanut butter instead of cheese on your sandwich for lunch.
This mode acts as two main forces for the overall Rio 2016 package. One, it has players trying out every minigame before touching the Quick Play mode, and two, it’s the only way to unlock most of the characters and costumes for your Mii. In fact, you’ll have to play through the game twice in order to get everything you can — as long as you don’t miss anything along the way, like that 20% service charge for bringing your own wine.
I didn’t think a bow with glove arrows were legal during the Olympics
There really is a wealth of content on the menu, from rowing to badminton, but you’ll soon realise how shallow and small everything is. The majority of minigames are only bite-sized snacks served up in order to train your character, gain experience, and bulk-up for the day’s primary events.
And much like starters to the main dish, not all of these teasers are created equally. Some of them award you points for just showing up while others penalise you for not following the sparse instructions or bizarre gameplay that’s been included to get the most out of the 3DS. The term ‘waggle’ comes to mind when thinking of most of these minigames.
You’ll force down these tidbits, these slivers of what might be described as ‘gameplay,’ while ordering another one in the process. Why? Well, they’re the only way to level up your character in order to wear better clothes. Instead of sports drinks or performance enhancing drugs, your Mii will wear different pieces of clothing for status boosts. These range from shorts to caps to character suits. When’s the last time you wore your furry suit to a fancy shindig while stuffing your face full of garlic mussels or French cheeses on unassuming molluscs?
A few of the main games were only really completable by not only having better clothing — I looked fabulous in my yellow Samba Dancer suit — but also acquiring better gear. I didn’t think a bow with glove arrows were legal during the Olympics.
Was that Robin Hood-esque cap or a few extra apples really worth the extra muscle mass on your legs?
Even with all of the grinding, the gear, and people walking around in very creepy Sonic suits, the game is pretty. Rio 2016 isn’t pushing the 3DS to its limits, but it does a decent job of capturing the stylised city and all of the events in a manner that’s bound to please most. Strolling through Rio will treat you to miniature versions of its landmarks with all of ten resident NPS characters around each area – it does look as though a plague recently swept through the city. In each mini-game, the characters and districts are done quite well. It’s typical Nintendo/SEGA aesthetic fair.
After chewing through all of the gristle and tiny bones of what should have been a payday treat, you’ll realise that all the peppery mushroom sauce in the world can’t disguise this shallow, repetitively chewy mess.
The toy in the wheat cereal aka the Pocket Marathon
And finally, we come to the Pocket Marathon. Taking place over three stages, or three courses, you’ll (literally) walk through this part of the package. Utilising the 3DS’s accelerometer, the device counts your steps which are in turn used on the courses. You’ll run through each course while overtaking other characters or having them join you to cheer you on.
This is where toys in cereal boxes come into play and collecting the darn things. The game will make you feel healthy, like you’re achieving something by consuming all of that shredded wheat, but it’s all a farce. Why? The game rewards you with special unlockables and more in-game currency by walking more, checking this mode every day, and being obsessed.
That new skeleton costume is just within reach, but you need to wolf down this cardboard-like mulch for the next five days before you can claim it, and after that, the game will throw another collectable at you. You’ll find yourself walking before school, during lunch, or after work, or just to the local cafe for a few extra steps. Your co-workers will think you’ve lost weight and family members will comment, but little do they know the secret dark collecting truth you hold. Just a few more steps, just a little more to get that next piece of kit. Soon you’ll look the part of an Olympic athlete, but was it all worth it? Was that Robin Hood-esque cap or a few extra apples really worth the extra muscle mass on your legs?
Release Date: 8 April 2016 (South Africa)
Developer: Sega Sports R&D
Genre: Sports, party
Platform(s): Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS (review platform)
Launch Price (RRP): R699
Industry average score: 57/100
Verdict: The game is a mishmash of unrealised potential and grinding. You’ll play through it once, maybe twice, but after all is said and done there are better mini-game packages out there. Wait for a price drop before picking it up, or better yet, just watch the Olympics opening ceremony and forget out the rest of the events as you would this game.