Summer Stars 2012 – Review
It hasn’t even started yet and we’re already to sick to the fucking back teeth of the Olympics. For all of their talk about the Olympic spirit, most people in Britain are seething that London is getting all the attention and most people in London are just pissed off at how fucked the roads are going to be that month. But cometh the tournament, cometh the inevitable official and unofficial licenses, and the latest of these is Deep Silver’s Summer Stars 2012 by German athletics obsessives 49Studios.
When Track and Field first punished arcade goers back in 1983 with its tappytappytappytappytappytappypress action, most gamers wouldn’t have expected the genre to still be inflicting RSI on the gaming populace some three decades later but it is, thanks in no small part to the devs who have already released ten games under the Summer and Winter Games banners. The button-tapping/joystick-waggling formula still underpins the whole experience, but the increased capabilities of consoles in the 21st century mean that other, less hardware destroying events are now also catered for.
Your basic track and field events such as running, jumping and throwing all require that you waggle the right analog stick to within an inch of your life, followed usually by a quick stab at the left trigger button. In the past these sort of events were limited by nothing but your own physical ability, but 49Studios have a habit of limiting your speed until you’ve unlocked abilities by spending skill points. IMPORTANT: this is stupid. Let ability, strength, speed and timing be your limiting factors, not some faux-RPG nonsense. Still, progression happens fairly quickly and when I blitzed the 100 meters in 9.47 seconds, I realised that this wasn’t going to be nearly as punishing as games from the past.
The more interesting events are the crossbow ones (think worst FPS ever mixed with the Speccy darts sim 180), diving/trampolining (rhythm action without the beats) and a surprisingly competent mountain biking event that even throws in a few stunts for good measure. To their credit, and unlike some of their previous titles, 49Studios haven’t put in anything that’s too difficult to learn and master. Even the swimming – usually horrible thanks to combinations of circular waggling and having to time your breathing – is a lot more forgiving than usual, although seriously fuck them for making you rotate the sticks in different directions. Argh!
Overall there are plenty of events to sink your teeth into and although you do have the tedious process of leveling up before you can get world class at any of them, when you do they can be quite engaging and, again, unlike most games of the genre, even the worst event (in this case the fencing) isn’t completely horrible. Quirky special events such as hitting targets with a javelin or distracting diving events with a waterpistol add a little irreverence and whimsy to the proceedings too and to good effect.
Presentation is cheap but cheerful with a bright and breezy interpretation of the nation’s capital and a handful of cutscenes that show a cheesey news crew following the key events of the tournament and, even though your athletes tend to have American accents regardless of which nation you’ve picked, it does all add to the sense of celebration that some people must be feeling around the Olympics. Come the inevitable post-Olympic price crash, this isn’t a bad way to spend a few quid and a few hours but for full price the budget feel will sting a little. No doubt, bigger companies will have their cash-in attempts ready for the big event but if you want a cheeky underdog that has way more good events than bad ones, Summer Stars 2012 isn’t too bad at all.Pros
- Lots of events and they aren't all wagglefests
- Bright, colourful presentation
- No horribly difficult events to spoil the party
- Waggling is shit isn't it?
- A little too easy which will affect longevity
- Having to level up your athletes is a pointless mechanic that should have never been introduced in this genre but seems to be here to stay
Summer Stars 2012 won't be winning any awards but it is the most varied and refined athletics game from a developer that seems to do nothing but this kind of thing and while it's ultimately not all that exciting, it doesn't do anything wrong either. If, for some sick reason, you're in the market for a virtual Olympiad, this is as good a game to hurt yourself with as any.
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