While the games were delayed by the global pandemic, now that the summer games are coming (well, perhaps not given the situation in Japan, but stick with me) there must be an inevitable video game form of the events. Having been a fan of such compilations since waaay back in the olden days of playing the original Summer Games and all of its sequels on the Commodore 64 I always look forward to these, even if the results (even within the same collection) have a tendency to vary wildly. While this video game vision of the Summer Games in Tokyo may not be perfect by any means the first, and most vital, thing I’ll say is that my highly-competitive daughter and I had a yelling-and-laughter-filled super long play session running everything through the paces. Perhaps the most notable thing about this iteration of an event compilation is its ambition with regards to the breadth of events, many of which I’m not sure have been featured in such a collection before. While staples like track and field events or swimming are present, newer and more exotic events like rock climbing, BMX racing, and even rugby are also present. There’s a lot of game here, and given the differences in events there’s also plenty to attempt to master, though in some cases a healthy dose of luck can help… but this is also consistent with the genre. My first disappointment with the game is that you can’t enjoy it with 4 players locally, you’ll only be able to take on a friend. I’d like to think this could be patched, but I wouldn’t count on it. Local play for multiple devices (assuming multiple copies) and online play are supported, but I’d hoped to get everyone around the TV enjoying it. The only other major thing I’d say that stood out as troublesome would be the generally wonky behavior of your AI teammates and general implementation strategy in team-based events. Granted, yelling about this tends to add to the fun in some regards, but it can be super frustrating how you can’t manually switch players and are left to the unusual whims of the game, deciding who should be your active defender in particular. Some elements like batting in baseball I would consider over-complicated to the point they were a struggle to enjoy, but here’s to hoping some observations in data coming back about how games are played could compel them to come up with a less onerous scheme. A last fleeting gripe would be the lack of an option to simply tackle all events in one massive run, but maybe that’s just something I was looking for. Moving on to the good, on a general level there’s a lot to have fun with here, even if that can sometimes be tinged with frustration… but when playing with a friend this again can work out as comedic fodder for sure. As a whole the track and field and swimming events, being the most traditional, are also the best executed in terms of the controls and I was surprised at the number of small control tweaks that are in place for timing or execution to eke out slightly better times than mere quick button mashing. Even events that aren’t as well-implemented at least have a tendency to have similar control schemes, making simply getting used to the specifics of the event crucial but not necessarily needing to reinvent the wheel for everything either. For people who enjoy player customization it is supported, though you’ll need to keep your overall expectations in check. The ability to customize your outfit per event is an entertaining feature, and mismatches of equipment to the sport being played can at least be fun for a little bit. All in all, while it is by no means perfect, this summer games collection should be accessible and reasonably fun to people of all ages and skill levels. A combination of mashing, some technique, luck, and certainly some skillful strategy is required to be successful and particularly if you’re able to enjoy the experience locally with a friend it can be quite entertaining (cue up the tennis matches, my family decided that the sound of the shoes on the court sounded a bit too much like a bodily function and from there things devolved quickly every time we played it). If you’re going to go it solo there is support for online competitions but even though it’s implemented well enough we’ve seen the spotty track record of games maintaining a community past a few weeks from launch so I wouldn’t rest my hopes on that being its savior. While perhaps Mario Vs Sonic may have more star power and perks of its own going for it I’d say this collection has its own strengths as well with a surprisingly diverse roster of events that are fun to explore and try to get better at.
Justin Nation, Score:
Nindie Choice! [8.3]