With the backing of the London 2012 Olympics, Mario and Sonic are making their 3DS debut, bringing with them a host of new sports-themed minigames. Many of them have been designed from the ground up with the 3DS in mind, making use of its gyroscope, its accelerometer, and, of course, its 3D screen. Traditional Olympic sports like swimming and gymnastics feature unique and amusing control schemes, such as blowing into the mic during a breaststroke and tilting the handheld into all sorts of awkward positions to keep upright on a balance beam.
We were shown an early build of 2012 Olympics, featuring five events in a medley mode that gave us an overall score at the end. The first event was judo, which looked similar to a fighting game like Street Fighter. A series of button commands appeared onscreen that we had to replicate as quickly as possible. Depending on our speed and accuracy, we were given a rating, which dictated if we performed a move, blocked our opponent's attacks, or got taken down. The button combinations got progressively more complex, until we were knocked out, or our opponent was.
The next event was a 1000-meter kayak race, where we had to use the circle pad to mimic a rowing action. The faster we turned the pad, the more quickly we moved. The game advised us to place the 3DS on a flat surface before the race, which helped us perform the manic circle motions required more quickly. More relaxed was the gymnastics-based balance beam event. To get our character to perform, we had to solve a labyrinth-like puzzle on the bottom screen, tilting the 3DS to move the ball around a small maze. This was followed by a balance meter, which required more 3DS tilting to keep a red dot between two points, so our character would land without falling off the beam.
While all that tilting might land you some strange looks if you're playing out in public, the actions of the 100-meter breaststroke will have people thinking you're completely crazy. It made use of the 3DS's microphone, requiring us to blow into it every time our character's head appeared above the surface of the water, getting progressively faster towards the end of the race. It felt a little odd at first--breathing out when our instincts told us to breathe in--but it was fun when we got used to it.
The final event we played was the 20K race walk. This was a rhythm-based game that took place around the streets of London, incorporating famous landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and Nelson's Column. To get our character to walk, we had to swipe the stylus along the bottom screen in time with music playing in the background. The more accurate our timing, the faster our character walked. Towards the end of the race, the speed of the music picked up, turning into a fast-paced rendition of the "Galop Infernal" from Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld--otherwise known as the can-can. We found keeping time with such fast music was tricky, but even if you're not musically inclined, it's lots of fun.
Each of the events was easy on the eye, with backdrops modelled after Olympics venues or levels from a Mario or Sonic game, while the menus were all based on the 2012 Olympics colour scheme of bright blues and pinks. Playing in 3D looked nice too, but it was tricky to focus on the screen during tilt-based events such as the balance beam--so much so that it was easier to play with 3D off. While Mario and Sonic at the London Olympic Games 2012 isn't looking all that different from its predecessors, the gyroscope-based minigames certainly add a new twist. Sega has also promised to reveal more new events leading up to release later this year on the Nintendo 3DS and Wii. Keep reading GameSpot for more information in the coming months.