Some of my favourite and earliest memories of gaming can be traced back to games like Derek Thompsons Decathlon and then later Olympic Gold. Button mashing, or joystick waggling as it was then, was part of the gaming bread and butter. Whilst gaming has moved on, its lovely to see Tokyo 2020 Olympics return to these simple minigames to give you an easy to access Olympic games on console and PC for all.
Firstly, the thing that seems to have divided people are the graphics. Characters look like toys crossed with Wii Mii’s with extra polish. I personally thought they looked charming and cute but they do lack a bit of detail that could have given the game a certain pizzazz. This sets the tone though as the controls will emulate the light touch, kid friendly, arcade nature of the game as a whole.
There are 20 events at the time of review. 16 were in the base game and four more have been added over the last year since release. The games are a really strange bunch though. You do have your 100m, 110m hurdles, long jump and hammer for the track and field. There are also a couple of swimming events that work similarly as you either button mash or rotate analogue sticks to keep or maintain speed. These are good to dip your toes into before the more unusual Olympic sports pop up.
There are full sports included here. Tennis, Table Tennis, Boxing, Football, Baseball, Beach Volleyball, Rugby and Judo. Initially this may sound like amazing value as these games all have (aside from Judo) their own games and franchises. The problem is that each game is distilled down into two or three very basic concepts and controls for ease of play. This means that you’ll be playing these sports but largely not following the rules, nor giving enough depth for tactical or skilful play. Instead, you’ll be chasing the ball and tackling with the odd pass for flair. Whilst they look and feel a bit different, over time they do start to feel very cookie cutter in their implementation which is a shame. I’ll say very much up front, none of these sports will replace your detailed franchises. Ever.
So what does Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games do right? Accessibility and ease of play. This game is designed for kids and families that don’t play games together. The controls are easy to pick up and a quick practice at all the events will give you enough context to then go head first into competition. Think Track N Field arcade simplicity and you are part way there.
Character customisation is available for 20 athletes in your country of choice. This lets you customise their appearance (I made myself fat like real life) and I did laugh as they burst into the opening menu screen full of life and glory. There are sports choices and then crazy mascot and silly choices which gives the game a very Nintendo cute vibe. You can spend a lot of time here if you want to, getting your crew ready to rumble in style. Things are purchased with in game currency earned simply by playing. It isn’t a grind fest thankfully either.
In an interesting twist, characters have attributes of power, speed and skill. You can spend your points unlocking variants of how these skills are balanced for each of your 20 athletes so that you can use your quickest character for the races and so on. What this means in actuality is that it opens up the last bit of the speed meter, or power meter in events. For skill events it means you have more time to be accurate. You can, if you are perfect, still match other characters if you choose not to dabble with this but the AI on the harder difficulties exploit this system and so you’ll need to follow suit.
1-4 players can enjoy the game locally and online. Online has various modes for quick events with playlists of certain events grouped together. You can also make your own custom ones and invite players along. There is also the tournament mode where certain events run on a schedule for a few hours and then rotate around. Online ran very smoothly during my limited play, there just wasn’t tons of people to play with. The fact that people are still playing a year after launch is a good sign of its replayability though.
The biggest takeaway for me is that whilst Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is very simplistic, it is also very fun. It goes out of its way to make the sports jolly and the bright and bold graphics, sound and colour palette help that along. Whilst it isn’t my favourite Olympic Games collection of all time, and it could have done with way more track and field events, its a worthy addition to Olympic collection.
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