Sports Champions

September 19, 2010

The PlayStation Move motion controller released late last week, and the pack-in, Sports Champions, is inevitably going to be compared to Wii Sports. The game has a similar structure, casual appeal and introduces players to the new control scheme. It’s a tough comparison, as Wii Sports made its system the most popular console on the planet almost single-handedly.

Thankfully, it holds its own.

The title contains six sports: Archery, Beach Volleyball, Bocce, Disc Golf, Gladiator Duel and Table Tennis. Each has its own Champions Mode single-player campaign with increasing difficulty and various arenas, as well as score challenge and multiplayer options. And while the games all play differently and are executed to varying degrees of success, there’s an overarching theme that makes it different from Nintendo’s offerings: these are games, and developer Zindagi Games isn’t afraid to mess with the core mechanics to make it more game-like.

Archery is what has gotten the most hype, with its two-Move play being the focus of the accessory’s advertising. (Thankfully, you can also play with only one controller.) It’s very similar to Wii Sports Resort‘s archery mode, but  with some twists. Players get points by splitting arrows, hitting watermelons and ripping open flying bags of coins, and sometimes they can block opponents’ shots and otherwise manipulate their environment. It’s all very competitive, and makes for a dynamic experience. Of course, there are also simpler variations on the theme for people who want that.

Bocce is the surprising star here. For those who haven’t played (and there are many), players try to throw a medium-sized ball to get it as close as possible to a smaller ball. It plays like a cross between bowling and curling, and it’s a good showcase for motion control. What makes it fun here is the differing play surfaces, from a an official-looking court to a random playground with paths, benches and trash cans. There’s a real strategy in placement, and each round feels like a different task.

Disc Golf is what you’d expect if you’ve played previous motion-controlled titles. Zindagi seems to have nailed disc physics, and standard tactics like curving shots work well. (Or, well, accurately. It directly correlates with your skill level.) Gladiator Duel is rather strange, as you’re out there with old-style swords and shields, and hitting in different places nets different damage. You can also damage the shield, discouraging its use, but it’s a small blocking tool and overuse seems unlikely. 

Beach Volleyball is the dud of the collection. While the Move shines with precision movements and pointing, it’s not so great for sticking your arms high in the air or detecting whether your arms are in a good position to hit a ball. Table Tennis is what you’d expect and nothing more, but there’s not much more it would make sense to add. 

Instead of using custom avatars, players use specific characters, each with their own sport they excel in. (Of course, none of their sports are in this game, so there isn’t a clearly dominant character in each.) While potentially a bit too stereotypical, each has his or her own personality, and that’s refreshing. In another “hey, it’s a game” move, there are unlockable characters attained (for the most part) by beating Champions Mode in each sport.

Aesthetically, the game isn’t particularly astounding. There’s obviously a focus on making things look high-definition, as everything is shiny, clean and modern. Otherwise, things are fairly nondescript. Compounding that is the game’s audio, which, while not obnoxious or anything, is the least memorable of any game in recent memory. It’s okay, though, because the focus was on getting the gameplay right, and with the inevitably short development time of a launch title, it’s good to narrow your ambitions.

Sports Champions isn’t enough to make the Move worth purchasing on its own, but it was a necessary title to have if Sony wants to attract the Wii crowd, and anyone who picks up the controller should go ahead and give it a try.

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.