The London 2012 Olympics are here and; as with every other major international sporting event, there is currently a trend of low-budget knock off games available, with enough similar iconography to be obvious but not enough to warrant a plagiarism charge. Summer Stars 2012 is one such title, and is so obviously trying to be an 2012 Olympic game that it hurts. Hell, the case has a massive Union Flag on it, behind the characters of various nationalities doing various Olympic sports.
From the outset I desperately wanted to like this game, and I mean desperately. The intro screen, despite the blatant imagery of tower bridge and big ben, is aesthetically quite nice. It gave me an inkling of mis-placed hope that made me think “actually, this might be quite good”.
The meat of the “experience”; and trust me, that’s the only appropriate term for it – is in the single-player campaign. Upon entry, you choose a nation to represent in the “world tour” from a list of many, before embarking on a series of training events, competitive events and random “bonus stages” set in and around eighteen events, which turn out to be variations on the same five or six events. For the purposes of this review, I will describe a small selection;
Archery as an event isn’t as bad as you would expect. You are given a short time to aim and fire at a target in the hope of getting a decent score. Whilst the standard controls for this event are horrendous, with far too much computer-generated arm-sway getting in the way, the move equivalent isn’t that bad. The developer chose to implement a timer for each shot, which successfully ramps up tension. The bonus challenges for Archery are also relatively interesting, if short.
Running boils down to two parts, the launch and the run. Launching is simply a case of timing a badly prompted start, whilst running simply comes down to furiously wiggling the right stick. It could not be less intuitive if it tried. The worst thing is that three of the eighteen events advertised are exactly the same, just running at different lengths, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they recycle this system with the Hurdles event, making it the most frustrating mini-game I have ever encountered in my short existence. Adding horrible Quick-Time Events onto an already weak framework at very small intervals was a terrible idea. It does NOT equal “fun”. If anything, it makes it incredibly likely that you will look like an idiot playing it, break your controller and end up with a hole in your TV from the frustration. It just feels like a lazy choice on the part of the developer.
On a brighter note, I really had fun with the High Jump. Although the button prompts are repetitive, it gives you a unique sense of accomplishment when you actually pull off that winning jump. Though the learning curve is steep, it feels good, if far too simple. Trampoline is much the same story, it just feels really satisfying. The combination of L-stick with the buttons prompts feels natural and challenging, and really rewarding when you do it right.
An event which could have been fantastic is the Mountain Biking – Though the controls are unclear to start with and the actual delivery is jarring, there are redeeming qualities. The graphics in particular aren’t bad, with motion blur and a fantastic background landscape to boot. Once you have the hang of it the controls aren’t that bad and are reminiscent of early Tony Hawk games. However, the physics system doesn’t do it any favours. Sometimes you slightly glance a wall and get thrown across the earth, whilst at others you can run into it headfirst and not get thrown off. In all, it just lacks well-needed polish, and can be considered the highlight, even if it still feels very flat and repetitive.
As you can see, the gameplay isn’t hugely exciting. Luckily, many games have been redeemed purely by creation aspects. This isn’t one of them, as there is no character selection or customisation whatsoever. The only bit of input you get for your generic characters apart from their nationality, is through an arbitrary RPG skill system. I still don’t understand what this modern obsession with throwing RPG elements at arcade-style games is, but yet again it falls completely flat and feels utterly pointless.
Graphically Summer Stars varies. At times you can see echoes of brilliance, but for the most part it is a colourful mess. The lack of effort in this department can be summed up by looking at the audience to the events themselves. Spectators are just copied with a palette change every few metres, with each distinct audience member doing the exact same movement as its brothers, at the exact same time. It’s nothing more than lazy design and programming. If you’re going to try to save time by repeating assets as least TRY to hide it. Similar things are found throughout, from each opponent in the running events having the same number on their chests to the spray-can water effect in the diving bonus game. Granted, the sound and music design of the game is pretty damn good, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was recycled from a previous game. The commentary during rounds is wooden and cheesy, especially when it tries and fails to be funny.
In fact, one of the only redeeming qualities to the game is when it is inadvertently funny. The avid copyright avoidance is hilarious as it’s obvious enough to be seen but not enough to be illegal. You could theoretically experience hours of fun simply by watching someone play. However, the act of making someone play for that long is probably against the Geneva Convention.
In conclusion, I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone. It is badly made, obviously rushed and simply an attempt to rip-off anyone who mistakes it for the official 2012 Olympic Game. The controls are completely unintuitive and make you look with a complete idiot. Although there are a couple of redeeming qualities I would rather cut off my own leg than pay anywhere near the asking price for this.
If you desperately want to play it, which I wouldn’t recommend; I beg you to wait until the Olympics are over, at which point you will probably find this in a bargain bin. Perhaps by voting with our wallets we can discourage this kind of tat from being made.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.