It might not be the most critically acclaimed series out there, but there's something about Mario and Sonic's collection of sports-themed minigames that has proved extremely popular--19 million copies to date popular, in fact. And so the duo is making its way back onto the Wii with the backing of the London 2012 Olympics this time. Those who are worried that the game will get too serious have little to fear, though. Alongside traditional Olympic sports like the triple jump and circuit racing will be Dream Games, which have you riding your way to victory on a hovering discus or knocking out your opponents on bouncing clouds. Whichever sport you play, one thing is guaranteed: You'll look incredibly silly as you do so.
Mario and Sonic 2012 features a number of new events, and we've laid our hands on five of them. The most humorous of these is the equestrian event, where you have to ride a horse over a number of different jumps and around obstacles. You move the horse by shaking the Wii Remote, which the game encourages you to hold out in front of you like you're holding onto a set of reins. Tilting it turns the horse, while the A button makes it jump. Suffice to say, we looked a bit foolish when riding our imaginary horse, which provided much amusement for onlookers. Of course, you don't have to pretend you're riding a horse to play, but it certainly adds to the fun.
Similarly silly is the canoeing event, where you have to mimic the action of rowing using the Wii Remote. A contracting circle that appears over your character's head lets you know when to row; you have to get your rowing motion in before the circle disappears and you travel faster. We found canoeing was best played in cooperative teams, with two players in each canoe. By coordinating with your teammate, you can travel much faster, with a waggle-infested speed run toward the end of the race making for a frantic finish. The final real-world event we played was badminton, which works just as you'd expect. By swinging the Wii Remote, you serve and return the shuttlecock; you can also launch impressive-looking Mario Power Tennis-like supershots using the buttons.
The real-world sports were all well and good, but the most fun we had was in the Dream Games. The first we played was called long jump, which despite the name bore little resemblance to the actual sport. Up to four players attempt to travel as far as possible while bouncing around on clouds. By shaking the Wii Remote, you can make your bounces go a little higher, and you can also stomp on the heads your competitors to slow them down. Long jump looks and plays a lot like New Super Mario Bros. on the Wii, except this time, you win by knocking your opponents out rather than incessantly irritating them. The second Dream Game we saw was discus. You throw your discus out in front of you using the Wii Remote, after which you character jumps onto it and you ride it around like a glider. The aim is to collect as many rings as possible, tilting the remote to steer while using your glider to nudge opponents. Toward the end of the course, you try to land on a giant target, with points awarded the closer you are to the bull's-eye.
Each event has a backdrop modelled after an Olympic venue or a level from a Mario or Sonic game. We saw two Olympic venues; Greenwich Park, complete with its London city backdrop; and Eton Dorney, with its elongated lake. The discus backdrop is modelled after a level from Sonic Adventure, which fans will no doubt recognize. Despite the differences in location, each event shares the same bright cartoonlike look that's easy on the eyes and will no doubt appeal to younger audiences. There's a wide range of characters to choose from, too, with favorites such as Princess Peach and Doctor Eggman, as well as the titular duo, making an appearance.
While Mario and Sonic at the London Olympic Games 2012 isn't looking all that different from its predecessors, its new events will certainly keep the minigame fanatics entertained. Sega has promised to reveal more new events leading up to the game's release later this year on the Nintendo Wii and 3DS, so keep reading GameSpot for more information in the coming months.