Sports Champions is to the PlayStation Move what Wii Sports is to the Nintendo Wii. It has unofficially become the Move’s main launch title, and for good reason. It’s a great showcase of what the PlayStation Move motion control technology is capable of, and its games are fun and accessible without feeling shallow. It’s a collection of six sports games; some well known, and some you may not have heard of.
The disc includes Bocce, Disc Golf, Archery, Table Tennis, Gladiator Duel, and Volleyball, and all games can be played solo or with two or more players. The games have a common structure in terms of game modes. There’s a single player tournament mode, which includes three tournaments - Bronze, Silver and Gold, and each tournament has ten events, so there’s plenty of content. The Bronze level is usually designed to ease you into the game, and there are tutorials to get you on your way. If you happen to do something wrong or make too many mistakes, tips will show up to help you correct them. The Silver and Gold tournaments are a true test of skill and in some of the games, Table Tennis for example, the Gold events can be really punishing.
And the winnah is ...
Each game also has a Free Play mode, where one or more players can play single matches, and a Challenge mode, which doesn’t pit you against AI opponents, but instead gives you targets to achieve. The game also has an option for custom soundtracks, so you can listen to your own music while you play instead of the game’s soundtrack. The start of each game has a brief controller calibration process, where you can choose whether you’d like to play with the left or right hand, and in the games that allow the use of two Move controllers, you can choose whether to use one or two controllers. Sony had only provided us with the move Starter Kit for review, which comes with just one Move controller, so we weren’t able to play the games with a two-controller configuration, or try out the multiplayer.
Archery is a fairly simple game that is made to feel quite instinctive thanks to its very natural control scheme. Holding down the trigger button (T) on the Move controller, you first reach over your shoulder to pull out an arrow. You then aim at your target straight ahead and let go of the T button to let fly.
Ready Aim, Fire away!
Targets may either be static or moving, and some targets only stay active for brief period. This is one of those games that is best enjoyed with a friend, as both players will be gunning for the same target, and it’s a matter of who hits the target first. There’s also a tic-tac-toe mode, which, as it sounds, is a game of tic-tac-toe where you must complete the sequence by hitting the correct boxes using your bow and arrow. In the two-controller configuration, one controller acts as the bow and is used for aiming, while you’ll have to pull the other one back to shoot.
Bocce is a sport you probably haven’t heard of. It essentially requires you to toss a small ball and then follow it up by tossing some larger balls towards it. The aim is to try and get as close to the small ball as possible with the subsequent throws. Bocce is one of the two games in Sport Champions that supports four players, and playing it, you can tell that this game is designed as a multi-player party game. Unlike the other games, multi-player in Bocce is turn-based, making it slower and much more relaxed. It also makes good use of the Move tech, allowing you to vary speed, height and spin on the ball.
Volleyball is probably the dullest game of the lot. You aren’t required to move around the court or take any of the decisions that affect the course of a point. When the game says ‘jump’, you jump, and most of the time, you’re made to feel like a spectator. Even getting to the ball is controlled by the AI, so swinging to make the shot and directing it is really all you have to do. It may be more fun in a two-controller setup or multi-player, but what’s scripted will remain scripted, so this will probably be the least played game from this collection.
Easily the most exhausting game of the lot, Gladiator Duel is a sword fighting game that will have you swinging wildly to take out your opponent, while at the same time using the shield to protect yourself. While it can be played with one controller, two controllers would probably make this game a lot more enjoyable, where one would act as the shield, and the other the sword. Besides chopping away at your opponent’s unprotected body parts, you can also perform shield bashes, jump attacks, and dodge maneuvers to outfox the enemy. However, beating an AI opponent just doesn’t feel satisfying enough, because most of the time you’ll just be hacking away at their legs, as that’s the most exposed part of the body. Like Bocce, this too is probably best enjoyed in multi-player.
Battle it out with your friends in the arena
Think golf, but rather than clubbing a small dimpled ball towards a tiny hole a mile away, here you must toss a flying disc towards a target that is often obstructed from view or blocked off by barriers. To get around these obstacles, you must tilt the motion controller and angle the disc to get it to swerve around objects and towards the target. This is easier said than done, and this could well be the most challenging game of all, and when mastered, also the most rewarding. Varying the amount of swerve and height on the disc and also the power behind your through is the key to success in this game. The only downside to Disc Golf is the limited number of courses to play it on. Other than that, this is one of the most fun games in this collection.
The last game in this compilation is also the best. Table Tennis alone makes Sports Champions a worthy purchase and it is a wonderful showcase of what the PlayStation Move is capable of. Just turning your wrists around as you wait for your opponent serves is replicated on screen with eerie accuracy. If you’ve ever play table tennis in real life, playing this game will be instinctive. Applying top spin and backspin is simply a matter of turning your wrists to angle the bat, and the results are amazing. The angle at which you swing your arm and the power you put behind it are picked up just as you would expect, and the way a spinning ball reacts to your bat’s surface is perfect. If you want just one reason to buy Sports Champions, this would be it. Not all the games in Sports Champions are fun.
A little arm action across the board
Volleyball and, to an extent, Gladiator Duel are rather boring, but the likes of Table Tennis and Disc Golf easily make up for it. As an overall package, you will be well satisfied with what the Sports Champions package has to offer. It is a fun collection that is not only great as a pick-up-and-play party game, but it’s also a great showcase title for the PlayStation Move. Out of the four launch titles for Move (the others being Start the Party, Kung-Fu Rider, and EyePet Move Edition), this is surely the one to get.