With SEGA having focussed on next generation consoles with its officially licensed realistic Olympic Games title, Wii owners currently have to make do with the also officially licensed, but less than realistic Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. Summer Athletics from dtp entertainment looks to fill that void on the Wii, offering a proper Olympic-like experience but without the official license.
While Summer Athletics is available on numerous platforms the Wii game is the most unique. Developer 49 Games has tried where possible to mimic each of the 26 events by using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. Obviously this wasn't really possible with events like diving and high jump, but the majority at least resemble what you'd be doing with your arms if taking part in each event in real life.
The 26 events are spread over running, jumping, swimming, throwing, cycling, archery and high diving. Running events are the most simple, with sprint events simply requiring you to flick the Remote and Nunchuck up and down as fast as possible. Once this is mastered the fastest times rely on a quick start, achieved by flicking both controllers up on the starter's gun. Distance events fair less well, focussing on stamina and timing over speed, but four minutes of constant remote waggling probably wouldn't have done your wrists any good.
Swimming is the star of the show though, with freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke all being recreated with Wii Remote and Nunchuck movements. After a few laps your arms will be aching, making the 4x100m relay the most gruelling video game event we've ever played. Wii Fit might be making the headlines, but we can see a few laps of the pool in Summer Athletics doing your arms the world of good. Diving isn't quite as exciting, essentially asking you to time controller waggles with on-screen markers, but it does the job.
Archery should work with the Wii controllers and it does. You use the Nunchuck to steady your bow and aim with the Wii Remote. The two archery events included are very simple, with a high score being entirely down to how well you read the wind strength, but it's extremely accessible and easy to learn - a combination that is essential for the Wii audience. It's all well and good being able to master each event, but if your friends need a lesson when they come over for some four-player action the game would have a fundamental flaw.
This is where some of the remaining events fall down. The jumping events aren't very accessible at all, with the pole vault, long jump and high jump being the biggest offenders. In a multiplayer setting everyone should be able to grasp the basics before the event is over, and that isn't the case here. Throwing events have similar problems, making them fine for solo or competitive play amongst gaming friends, but no good for party play. The cycling events aren't hard to learn, but you'll need some knowledge of how team cycling events work in order to get the most out of them.
To add a touch more fun and excitement to proceedings the optional Arcade mode gives each player five boosts, which can be used during the events of your choosing. Depending on the event these act in different ways, but always give you an advantage over your competitors.
Multiplayer is clearly where Summer Athletics hits its stride, but there's a fairly competent single-player career mode on offer too, giving you a run of the mill athlete whom you can build up by competing in numerous events. It's not the most in-depth career mode ever seen in a sports title but a worthy inclusion all the same.
While many of the criticisms of Summer Athletics can also be levelled at Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, SEGA's smash hit athletics title has a colourful, fun appearance that allows it to make the odd mistake. Despite its perfectly serviceable visuals, Summer Athletics has none of that charm, putting its mistakes squarely in the spotlight. As a less than full-price release and with half the events being fun and accessible, anyone looking for a realistic athletics game on the Wii won't be too disappointed, but for overall fun and enjoyment SEGA's family friendly Olympic Games title still carries the torch.