The mascot for the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing is a multi-coloured cow named Fu Niu Le Le. Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against cows (of any colour), but it hardly conjures images of sporting excellence, does it? What are they trying to say about the world's leading athletes? That they're stricken with bovine stupidity?
If they want the Pocket Gamer recommendation for an Olympic mascot, they need only look as far as their own officially endorsed merchandise. Sonic The Hedgehog is brilliantly iconic, full of competitive attitude and he runs very, very fast indeed. He's already starred in the successful Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games on DS (and Wii), and now he's gotten rid of the fat plumber to star in his very own Olympic-endorsed mobile game.
Sonic at the Olympic Games presents you with a streamlined set of five Olympic events – 1500m, 400m hurdles, Triple jump, Discus and Javelin. Each is viewed from a 2D side-on perspective and each can be played one-handed. All wisely forgo the established track and field control method of button mashing, which might not have worked on mobile, opting instead for timed button presses.
The events themselves similarly eschew convention, bringing in elements from Sonic's world to augment the action. So we have rising and dipping tracks with the odd loop de loop thrown in for good measure in the 1500m, and collectible score-boosting rings in all of the events.
The running in the four events that require it (all bar Discus) is handled by hitting '5' each time Sonic moves over a circular marker. Time it perfectly and the marker will light up green, with Sonic's momentum increasing. If you're slightly off, the marker will light up yellow and your pace will remain fairly even. Miss it completely and you'll receive a red light and a costly hit in speed.
Built on this solid base mechanic is a series of simple control variations for each of the events. Javelin sees you pressing '2' at the point of release, followed by '2' or '8' to adjust the flight path of the javelin in order to avoid balloons and collect rings. Triple jump sees you pressing '2' each time you land to spring off again, with '5' employing your finite boost bar to give you extra air time.
In keeping the interface streamlined and many of the elements constant, Airplay has created an intuitive and consistently fun set of events. The flipside of this, however, is that the events lack a little in variation. Really, throwing a javelin and running the 1500m shouldn't feel at all alike, but they very much do so here.
This problem of limited event variation is exacerbated by their limited number – five really isn't enough. Coupled with their simple execution, you'll have seen pretty much everything the game has to offer in as little as an hour of solid gaming. There are four characters to choose from, but their abilities are identical.
The important thing to note, though, is that each of the events is slickly executed, brilliantly presented and great fun to play. What Sonic at the Olympic Games as a whole lacks in variation, it makes up for with consistently solid gameplay and a novel twist on the track and field sub-genre.