Every four years the Olympic torch is lit to signify the opening of what is the largest and most competitive sports event in the world. Countries select their top athletes to compete in hopes of securing a highly sought-after medal in these gruelling events. However, this time it's a bit different. Instead of countries sending their representatives from all over the world, the competition has been made exclusive for only two companies to compete in. Nintendo vs. Sega. Red vs. Blue. An overweight Italian plumber on hallucinogenic mushrooms vs. a bright blue hedgehog with incredible running capabilities. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games.

Mario and Sonic, two well known mascots from two well known companies finally make an appearance together to compete in a myriad of events selected from the modern Olympic Games. Nintendo and Sega's lead character is also supported by a handful of other popular characters from their respective series. Each with their own strengths and weaknesses and the same determination to rake in a bundle of medals from the Olympic Games.

As is to be expected from an Olympic based game, Mario and Sonic participate in many different events, each with interesting ways to play. I found that the depth and skill required for each game varied, as well as the fun factor. Some games played so simply and easily you wondered why you were even bothering to do it, others had a perfect balance of difficulty and fun. Then there is the dreaded 'this is easy up till the very last moment when one tiny mistake ruins the perfect run' game, also known as 'vault'.

The athletics grouping, with track and field events, has a nice mix of the simple and the boring. The track events are all virtually the same. Rub the stylus left and right as fast as you can to sprint the 100m, rub the stylus slightly slower to run the 400m, and rub the stylus then tap the screen to jump for the hurdles. Field events were slightly more complex, but equally as uninspiring. Mostly consisting of the same rub-to-run then draw a line to jump/throw depending on the event.

Gymnastics takes you to more of a 'dance dance revolution' type game. Trampoline has you jumping then executing commands with the stylus to do all sorts of fancy flips and twirls. The vault is slightly different; run up, jump off the launch pad and tap the numbers on screen from smallest to largest in a very short amount of time to impress the judges. Then you have to tap the ground for a perfect landing, messing this up takes your perfect 10 score down to something like 3. Just to add insult to injury, the vault consists of two runs averaging your scores to get the final. So not only do you have to try and hit that landing perfectly once, you have to do it twice, else risk scoring a measly 6/10. It is possible to stumble from your landing then correct yourself, but by the time you realize this you have already made an 'unsatisfactory' landing and have torn your score neatly into thirds.

It's not all bad though, in fact, that's all the bad there really is. Once you get past the first few boring games you hit the events that make Mario and Sonic shine. Archery and Shooting both require a good amount of skill and finesse. Fencing was difficult at first, but once you learned to read your opponents it became fluid and fun. My favourite of all is the Table Tennis. It is deep yet easy to play. It plays much like a mini version of Mario Tennis. You can hit straight or curve the ball either way. Timing the shots properly results in smashes. It feels so good to play that it could almost be a standalone DS game itself.

Continued on next page...