London 2012: Official Mobile Game (iPhone) Review
Here in England the mood is cautiously optimistic, which is as close as we get to the rampant jubilation most other countries would be enjoying when faced with the prospect of hosting the greatest show on earth. With Friday's Olympic opening ceremony a mere handful of days away now, we're very close to putting our cynicism aside for at least a whole week, and not even the presence of a licensed cash-in can ruin our mood.
London 2012: Official Mobile Game starts off with a rather impressive character creation system that lets you build your very own Mii-like athlete before you head towards the events list. Each one of these has three different modes available, so you can either get some training in to improve your stats, take part in competitive events, or work on a series of event challenges to enhance your prestige.
If you want to compete, you're going to need stamina which recharges every ten minutes. Extra events are unlocked using the gold currency that can either be earned through competitive gameplay, or just purchased from the store. Attribute-enhancing apparel can also be purchased with gold to give you a completely legal, and definitely not prohibited, advantage on the track.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's ever played a licensed, big-budget sporting event game that the events themselves are something of a mixed bag: some are genuinely enjoyable, others clearly needed a second round of polish before being sent off to the starting blocks.
First things first, the tilt controls are absolutely dreadful, and you would be well advised to switch to screen presses for all events. On many occasions, tilting my device forward to clear a hurdle did in fact flip my screen image vertically, making for a rather ignominious end to my representation of Queen and country.
Running events are characterized by their requirement for you to mash the touchscreen almost to breaking point by repeatedly hammering on spots to the left and right of the screen. Simple and fun, but slightly worrying if you're anything like like me and you constantly obsess over the state of your screen.
As well as this frantic button-mashing, the hurdles event requires a button press (you switched from tilt controls, right?) which, when well-timed, will send you leaping over the obstacle. Timing mini-games accompany the pole vault and triple jump events.
The 100m freestyle and butterfly swimming events require some frantic finger-swiping down the screen to get your swimmer moving at a brisk pace (you will not want to do this in public), and there are again timed mini-games for when you need to make a zippy turn at the end of a length.
While these games are basic but at least good fun, the delayed steering of the kayak event will likely bring a decidedly unpatriotic tear to your eye as you approach a target around a blind corner and change direction a mere handful of seconds after tapping the directional button. Agonizing.
The double trap shooting event is by far and away the most disagreeable of the lot, with one of the worst implementations of a virtual joystick we've ever seen (and, as you can imagine, we've seen a few). It sticks, it becomes rigid. It forgets that you're holding it altogether, and then it assumes a mind of its own. You will never become an Olympic champion at this event.
Things fortunately pick up by the time you participate in archery, which features the sort of wobbly reticule and wind speed action you'll know from any number of sporting games of years gone by. Still, to the developer's credit, it's done very well, and feels the most genuinely competitive.
So, there we go. Like the Olympics itself there are events to get excited about and others that make you scratch your head and wonder what you're missing. Given that the better events are mixed in with a rather neat progression system that takes you all the way from regional wannabe to Olympic idol, you may get enough reward from your time to make downloading this game worthwhile. Just don't expect gold.