With only a day left before the Games get underway, many a parent will be tempted to get the official game of the Olympics, London 2012, for their kids.
Now normally I would offer a word of warning when it comes to these kind of games as, more often than not, they turn out to be a quick turnout for a quick buck – which in the world of gaming is a bit like the dodgy cousin that no-one wants to be associated with.
But London 2012, while not perfect, is a pleasant surprise.
This is primarily due to the very polished visuals and respectable production values. It serves to immediately impress upon you that developer Sega Studios Australia was at least given enough development time as possible before the Olympics kick off.
It was clearly still a tight schedule though, as there are a couple of items that could have been improved, but as it stands London 2012 breaks the irritating mould of quick cash-in games by at least looking respectable.
Although not all of the Olympic events are available to play through, you still have quite a lot to try out. To be fair, to make all the 302 events in 26 sports in the Olympic Games playable would have required an extraordinary amount of development time, so Sega managed to pick a good selection with the time they had available.
The main single player campaign is fairly short (about two to three hours) and does not include all the available events. However, you can create a custom playlist which allows you to pick and choose from all the available events – which is particularly awesome when you want to play with some friends.
Among the available events, however, there's a huge discrepancy between the difficulty levels in terms of the controls. Some events are really easy to control while others require quite a bit of finger dexterity to get right.
For example, in the 200m sprint you just have to smash the X-button (but not too hard or your athlete tires out too quickly), but in the rowing events on the other hand, there's much more to it than that.
This lack of consistency can be very frustrating and Sega should have spent more time on getting that balance right. This is most likely due to a tight deadline where the choice had to be made between style versus substance – and as is the case in most games these days, style won.
Another area that could have done with more development time is the sound department – and especially the voiceovers. While the quality is not a problem, the range of comments are, with commentators often saying the same thing over and over during the course of completing any particular event.
This is aggravated even further by some trigger points that were not anchored properly. For example, while taking part in a diving event, I did a particularly shoddy belly-flop that sent the commentators into a frenzy of praise, instead of the expected belittling that my diving attempt deserved. It doesn't happen a lot, but it is something that would have been picked up quite quickly in a proper testing phase.
As alluded to earlier, London 2012 works best when playing with friends. The competitive nature of the Olympics lends itself to playing against your mates and the way the game is structured makes it painless enough to create a playlist for a quick game.
London 2012 is not perfect and when the Games have run its course, you probably won't pick the game up very often. But in the world of quick cash-in games, it certainly sets a new benchmark for what can be done within a tight development timeline.
The gaming purist in me still doesn't like the notion of game developers trying to make a quick buck out of us, but winning the 200m Olympic dash certainly helps to soothe that ego.
Score: 7 out of 10