The Olympic Games have come and gone, and somehow I am still reviewing a game based on such events. To be fair, we didn’t receive Summer Stars 2012 until about a week ago, which is disappointing considering how surprisingly good it actually is. For a game that boasts a $19.99 price tag and not an official sponsor in sight, you would be inclined to expect the worst. What we ended up with is a marginally exciting experience that is worth it if, like me, you are moderately interested in the summer games.
From the get-go, this feels like a budget game. Stilted animations and generic, royalty-free music are at the forefront. Once you get past the inadequacies, you can dig into the games themselves, which is what is most important. You have a career mode that takes you through each event, and a free mode that allows you to pick and choose. You can also compete against friends for high scores either on the couch, or online. This ends up being a great party game, and the events are unique enough for everyone to have a favorite.
Speaking of events, there are plenty here to keep you busy: archery, biking, sprinting, triple jump, high jump and fencing just to name a few. The controls are reminiscent of classic track and field games, but without the damage to your controller. Mashing buttons has been replaced by wiggling the analog stick back and forth, and timing takes a more prominent role. I never came to a brick wall on any particular event, and even enjoyed most of them enough to keep trying for higher scores. The nice thing is the game rarely pigeonholes you into one event too long, keeping things fresh from one minute to the next.
The career mode also tries to tell a story about your Olympian complete with attempts at humor and drama. The announcers are stale and really feel out of place at times. Thankfully, it seems the developer forgets about them constantly as they rarely make appearances. You will also have spats between other characters that have no immediate bearing on your events other than their name showing up under yours in the results screen. I am not sure what the purpose behind this decision was, but it can simply be skipped and ignored.
The game features Move support, which actually dampens the experience for me. Instead of doing simple button combos, you are shoehorned into performing actions that only work part of the time. I don’t blame the game or the hardware separately. I blame them both. Actions such as aiming down the bow sites become more cumbersome than need be, and your scores suffer for it. It is a neat diversion, but yet another example of how controller gaming is just more accurate and better tuned for this kind of experience.
Visually the game looks rough more often than not. The generic characters and their stiff animations do nothing to sell the story trying to be told here. The actual animations in the events are fairly well done, but everything else is just rigid. The game also pans around the stadium between events, and you get a view of standard assets and boring landscapes. This is a budget game, and it shows. The voice acting is next to terrible while the music, as I mentioned before, feels like someone Googled ‘royalty free tracks’ and loaded the game up. There’s nothing stellar about the menus or presentation either.
Summer Stars 2012 is as generic as its name, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. For the price, it delivers on the core aspects such as being fun and completely playable. If you enjoy the track and field style, I can easily recommend this for a weekend of fun. The events are handled well, and the game never brick-walls you into one. For me, it was fun jumping into these events without all the flash around them. If you are in that boat, I definitely recommend giving the game a whirl. It is surprisingly fun considering the budget presentation.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.