Medal of honour
As the saying goes, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years (and I apologise profusely to those creatures who do actually live under rocks), you’ll have heard that the Olympic Games are coming to England’s capital city. This, of course, means approximately 457,000 endorsements, of which London 2012: The Official Mobile Game is one.
When I saw this game up for review, my ‘Cashinometer’ (read it slowly) started bleeping furiously, but ever the intrepid reporter, I know I have to judge the game on merit. Good thing too, because it’s actually decent.
It’s a Wii Sports-like setup in everything from graphics to gameplay. You create a male or female character from a limited line up of floating heads – every black character you create ends up looking like Wesley Snipes. Come to think of it, every white character you create ends up looking like Wesley Snipes – and bless them with a starting number of stat points for Strength, Flexibility, Agility, Accuracy, Balance, and Mentality. One odd inclusion is that you have to name your player using a combination of letters and numbers as if you were creating a password. It’s unsettling to see Kevin1 line up in the 100m Hurdles with other cyborgs from around the world such as Zy and Laed12.
Each stat contributes towards better performance in different events of which there are nine in total including 100m Sprint, Archery and Kayaking. Naked Wrestling sadly didn’t make it into this edition of the game.
You take your character into competition across each event in three modes: training, which levels up your stats, Olympic, where you have the opportunity to win medals and set world records (and which includes three difficulty levels of it’s own), and Challenge, where different objectives are set with gold stars as a reward, just like when you were at school.
The actual events play out quite enjoyably overall, but are slightly unbalanced. You’re always going to have favourites in a game like this, and highlights for me include Archery and Pole Vault, which require good timing and accuracy. The Sprinting and Swimming are too samey and a little boring, with nothing more to do than button bash. There’s also an inexplicable mechanic in the 100m Sprint where tapping the buttons too fast leads to your character falling over. Yes, a sprinter who makes his living by sprinting falls on his face when he tries to sprint. Someone tell Usain Bolt to take it easy from now on.
The other balancing act it gets wrong is difficulty. You’ll waltz through some events with your eyes closed, while in some you’ll be lucky to earn a medal. Those presumably are the ones with the cyborgs. Each event has a unique control method involving a combination of swipes and taps which are easy to pick up and respond well.
Graphics are Wii Sports-esque, which means over sized cartoon heads on skinny bodies with flippy-floppy animation. Lacking in detail in some areas, but endearing and entirely suited to the genre. Sound is dominated by what must be the official Olympic theme which we’ll no doubt be hearing repeatedly in the next few weeks.
There’s a fair amount of playability here, with training levelling up appropriate skills making it a kind of Sport RPG, and a good amount of trinkets and accessories available to your character which also affect their stats. Attempting to break the Olympic and World records is a surprisingly effective motivation to keep playing, although I guess it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise considering athletes from every corner of the globe will be aiming to do the same thing in real life soon. I have a suspicion my record for iPhone Archery won’t be worth a real medal once the games kick off however. Meh.
The Stamina System means you have a certain amount of stamina points that are required to play each event. If you run out, you can either wait 30 minutes for them to recharge, or buy some more using your real life, hard-earned gold. I would’ve preferred a purchase and play design, but hey, the game is free and they’ve got to make up their medal haul somehow.
I also can’t sign off without mentioning a crippling bug – I couldn’t get the 100m Freestyle to work at all. This isn’t a battle between hardcore rappers, rather a swimming contest. Every time I loaded it up, it would get stuck on the intro screen, forcing me to restart.
So if you can get past a couple of niggles, there’s an alright game lurking that should keep your attention until the real muscle-bound Adonis’s take the London stage. I just hope Mr Bolt doesn’t embarrass himself and fall over during his big race.
Follow Kevin on Twitter as he prepares for the Olympic Sleeping contest @dreagleg.
London 2012: Official Mobile Game is out now as a free app. Get it now on the