If we learned anything from the launch of Wii, we know that a good sports-based game will go a long way in the motion controller realm. Sports Champions is more than just Sony’s answer to Wii Sports, it serves as an introduction to Move’s precise tracking capabilities and new owners of the motion controller will likely keep this game in their PlayStation 3 for quite some time. While the six-mini sports games packaged in Sports Champions demonstrate the power of Move, it also shows how developers will likely face a learning curve when designing games specifically for Sony’s motion controller.
Sports Champions will be available when Move launches and is included in some bundles in the U.S. Out of all the games we played for Move so far, Sports Champions is absolutely the leading contender for your money. The six-mini games (beach volleyball, table tennis, gladiator dual, bocce ball, disc golf, and archery) are varied enough to offer a unique experience and provide plenty of entertainment for a small group of friends. The single-player mode, on the other hand, lacks enough depth to keep users involved for more than a couple hours.
Move is at the forefront of each mini-game in Sports Champions. The motion controller is the clear star of this game, and while each game offers a little something different, the one common theme is that Move is precise enough to do things in-game you may not have thought possible. Simply play a few rounds of table tennis to see what happens when you rotate your wrist. The paddle in game moves along with the Move controller in true one-to-one tracking. Rotate your wrist forward slightly to put topspin on the ball, or roll your wrist down and swing towards the ground to put massive backspin on the ball. Likewise, your position in your play space is quite important. You’ll need plenty of room to move from side to side, or forward or backward to reach difficult shots. Even though you will want enough space to play, you can easily add a second real life player to the mix without adding more physical room.
This is truly a party game and best when played with at least one other person. Each mini-game has three basic features. You can hop into a free play event to play a quick match against the AI or locally against a real-life opponent. Champions Cup allows you to tackle a sort of career mode based around the single-player experience. In these tournaments you are given three varying difficulty levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. As you progress through the modes you’ll unlock collectables and different challenges. These Challenges add an additional layer of mini-game goodness to each event. Challenges include different kinds of targets in archery or table tennis, or placing requested shots in gladiator dual.
With only six games to play, it’s clear that Sony opted for quality over quantity. Each game is unique and has very tight gameplay. There are some exceptions, but the majority of our experience was very positive. Bocce for instance, is quite simple. You hold down the trigger button on your Move controller, and using an underhand throwing motion, you gently toss your ball. This doesn’t really change from level to level, so it can get a bit boring, especially in the single-player mode. The same repetitive gameplay can be found in table tennis and beach volleyball. The gameplay in the former generally is generally exciting while the later grows monotonous pretty quickly. Again, for this reason, these games are best played in short bursts with some friends.
There are some exceptions to this rule, however. Disc golf has a course with 18 different levels, taking you into a cavern, a snow-covered hill, and through a fall-like setting. The course offers nice diversity, but we would have liked a few different courses to try. Gladiator dual is perhaps the worst culprit in regards to monotony. This is essentially a 3D fighter in the realm of Tekken or Soul Caliber, but it lacks a deep character profile. Each character has different weapons, but they all play essentially the same. Still, it’s a great way to get rid of some energy with a couple friends. The gameplay mechanics in gladiator dual work fairly well, but we found the most flaws in this mini-game. Nonetheless, Gladiator dual will likely keep fighting fans around for quite some time; after all, who doesn’t want to square off against a friend?
Gladiator dual can be played with one or two Move controllers. In fact, every mini-game requires only one Move controller; however, archery, gladiator dual, and beach volleyball all allow you to use two. There is quite a difference playing these three games with two Move controllers as opposed to one, especially in gladiator dual. Archery is an exception as you can easily have a solid experience with just one controller. Likewise, beach volleyball is at its absolute best with two Move controllers, but using one doesn’t take too much away from the experience.
The graphics are pretty standard. If anything, we would have liked more detail in the environments and characters. The same goes for the sound, which is not bad, but nothing overly unique. We suppose Sony was truly going after the Move experience, but the lack of high quality graphics and sound keep Sports Champions from being a standout title in terms of overall presentation.
If Sports Champions is intended to introduce people to Move, it does a great job through its tutorials. Each game has a few tutorial sessions that give enough detail (but are still fun) to show pretty much anyone how to use the controller and how to play each game. As such Move offers accessibility for gamers of all ages, and you could conceivably find yourself going up against anyone from your grandmother to your six-year-old niece. Sports Champions will likely be around for quite some time given the fact it is easy to jump in and play. It is a lag-free experience that shows the best side of Move in comparison to the remainder of the launch games on offer.