Sports Champions Hands-on

Sports Champions showcases the capabilities of PlayStation Move at the most basic of levels and just like its nearest competitor, Wii Sports, is a party game designed to be played with all the family, up to four players to be exact. Based on our hands-on time with this PlayStation Move launch title we also found another reason to compare it to Nintendo’s Wii-mote waggling bestseller. Sports Champions is probably going to do very well at retail as a Move launch title; that much is guaranteed. However, chances are it’s probably only going to be enjoyed by the masses on a few occasions before gathering dust on the shelf long before Santa jumps on his sleigh.

In Sports Champions, you get access to a mix of modern and medieval sports games, plus the chance to participate in some crazy challenges that involve the likes of swords, hammers and even hair clippers. We would have loved to play some of these “crazy” challenges to see if they brought anything new to the table, but instead we were limited to just two sports in the demo, Table Tennis and Disc Golf. To say we were unimpressed with what we saw would be a gross understatement.

Table Tennis
 
The Move controller feels very comfortable when you grasp it in your hand and its ergonomic design means it rests snugly in your palm, while its blue orb gives off a rather pleasant glow that’s easy on the eye, but visible enough to see where you’re holding the controller without having to take your eyes off the screen.

We’re not unfamiliar with table tennis games. We’ve played the Wii Sports Resorts version of Table Tennis and we’ve played Rockstar’s Table Tennis on Wii, using the motion-sensing Wii Remote as our paddle. We therefore found it hard not to keep comparing this version of the game to those titles.

In the Move version you have to be extremely accurate, hardly moving your bat or body at all to dink it over the net, or making sure the controller is at exactly the correct angle to slice it across the table. But, this accuracy comes at a price. The controller does what it’s supposed to, tracking the power that you place behind the shot and how you twist it to curve and spin the ball, but it’s extremely difficult to get any sort of rally going because the controls are so sensitive and require so much accuracy. We’re not knocking Move for providing such an accurate representation of the paddle, that’s what Move is all about, but the margin for error really is so tiny that it’s really difficult to get a good rally going.

In the Wii version of Table Tennis you can let yourself go, whack the ball around and generally have fun with it, but in this Move version it’s actually not that much fun because of the sheer concentration that you need to get the ball over the net and keep it on the table. When, or if, a major Move compatible table tennis game is released then this level of difficulty may be ideal, but as a casual game sitting among other titles of this nature that are aimed at casual gamers it just doesn’t have that pick up and play appeal, or the fun factor.

Disc Golf

In Disc Golf you have to throw a disc around a course, similar to a golf course, in an attempt to reach the hole (or in this case the basket) first. Because you’re not actually holding a disc in your hand, but just thrusting your controller toward the screen, it’s really hard to gauge how hard you’re throwing it and the distance that you want it to go. The basic graphics also means that there’s no depth of field, so even when you do think you've put the right force behind your throw the disc will often go way past the basket, fall way short, or go veering off to the left or right. Maybe it’s because you have to be so accurate with the motion of the Move controller that we were all over the place, or we just need plenty more practice, but whatever it is we just found the whole game a real chore.

We were told this wasn't the finished article and there did seem to be some glitches in this code. We threw the disc accidentally onto the side of a hill on our first throw, but when it came back to our turn it re-set us to a different area that was nowhere near where we had landed. We played a two-player game and it took us 28 throws between us to get it into the basket. Suffice to say, we were bored and frustrated with Disc Golf. We'd rather play Table Tennis all day than be subjected to this again.

What these two games highlighted for us it is that Move’s 1:1 accuracy may well prove to be both a blessing and a curse depending on what you want from a game. That need to be so accurate rendered what is supposed to be two casual games feel way too difficult and frustrating. To form a valid overall opinion on Move we really need to see a wide range of games and genres to work out where its real strength lies. 

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A gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum, Steven Williamson now works as General Manager for PSU. He's supposed to be managing, but if you're reading this, it means he's dipped into editorial again. Follow @steven_gamer
 
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