It’s another year for the Summer Olympic games, and this year it’s in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In usual fashion, Mario and Sonic are there to take part and compete in as many of the events as they possibly can. Although the game will see a Wii U release later this year, this time around we’re covering the 3DS version. Are you up for a sporty review?

The Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games series has been running since 2008, and this long-time rivalry is still fun to see. Eight years on, and Mario and Sonic are back, this time at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games…except, they’re nowhere to be found. The game’s story mode, titled Road to Rio, tasks you (well, your Mii) with solving a mystery involving a missing Mario, a missing Sonic, and a missing stash of trophies and medals. This mode is also where you unlock various characters for play in the game’s other modes. Road to Rio has you training up at various gyms around Rio, hunting for clues, buying outfits from Yoshi shops, and hopefully winning medals. What I found interesting was that the practise sports in the story mode were nowhere to be found in the game’s competitive mode. The various sports themselves used just about every 3DS control mechanism in the book, and then some. There were button only games, button and motion games, motion only games, stylus games, sound activated games, and the list goes on. Some of it works, most of the more…esoteric ones don’t.

Mario & Sonic at the 2016 Olympic Games: rhythmic gymnastics

The story mode is a tiny portion of the game, however, and you can probably skip it if you’ve no interest in unlocking additional characters (in which case, what are you here for?). The main mode is Rio 2016 Quick Play, allowing you to participate in one of 14 events from soccer to swimming to rhythmic gymnastics, and for the first time in the Olympics since 1904, golf. Some of the events, such as archery, are quick events, and can be completed within the space of a couple of a minutes. Others, like soccer and golf, are far lengthier and require a decent chunk of time to play. One of the weirder decisions I found was that you aren’t allowed to pick which character you want to play as; you’re given a selection of 7, or a random character. It doesn’t make too much difference, though, unless you’ve played enough to max out your Mii’s stats.

Mario & Sonic at the 2016 Olympic Games: cycling

On top of the standard events, there are also “Plus” events, which look like the standard events on the outside, but contain lots of hidden nasty obstacles and pitfalls (some of them are even literal pitfalls). For example, the standard javelin throw event is just that: a standard javelin throw where your score is based upon how far you’ve managed to hurl it. The Plus event has you firing off javelins in quick succession within a small time frame, and your total score is the combined distances of all the javelins you’ve thrown. Or, for another example, the Plus version of the 100m race mixes in all sorts of powerups and obstacles to make it a more interesting experience. Some of these Plus events worked well, and made for some deeply engaging gameplay. Others, such as the volleyball or table tennis games, just felt like it drew out the game unnecessarily, and made it less fun to play. As usual, though, your mileage may vary.

Not content to leave you with just that, there’s also the Pocket Marathon minigame, which uses the steps you walk with the 3DS to run a marathon across Rio. Naturally, the more you walk around with the little console, the further you’ll end up going in the marathon. As you complete milestones you’ll be given rewards for progress such as new outfits and apples to buy equipment.

Mario & Sonic at the 2016 Olympic Games: hurdles

Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games supports multiplayer mode through download play or local play with someone else who already owns the game. I tested the game using download play, and the initial download to other 3DS consoles was fairly quick. I experienced no messy, huge areas of lag, even in the more action intensive games. Naturally, the more directly competitive sports were more fun to play, such as racing or cycling, but there was still a great deal of fun to be had in others like archery and long jump. Sadly, there’s no online play against global opponents, or even an online leaderboard to connect to. As a party game it can be a bit lonesome.

The best aspect of Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is the multiplayer, and if you have friends or siblings with 3DSs, the game can be an utter blast. Unfortunately this doesn’t make up for a fairly bland single-player experience. It’s not bad, it’s just not that great. If the game had included online multiplayer and ditched the wonky controls, it would definitely have earned a higher ranking, but at this point, it’s simply a bronze medal winner.

Mario & Sonic at the 2016 Olympic Games score: 5.5/10