It seems as though every innovative development in video games has a sports product to show you how well it works. The Wii had Wii Sports, the Dreamcast had NFL 2K1, and Virtual Boy had Mario Tennis. Now we have the PlayStation Move and its debut pack-in effort (depending which bundle you buy), Sports Champions. Does it topple the Wii Sports experience? Ehhh, not quite, but it’s a great collection and a must if you’re looking for the definitive Move experience.
Sports Champions contains six activities in all – bocce, archery, table tennis, gladiatorial duel, disc golf, and beach volleyball. All of these activities can be played with just the one Move controller, a nice sigh of relief considering the cost of a navigational controller or secondary Move, but you can hook up a second for a better experience with the volleyball, gladiator and archery games. We tried them out both ways, and the two-controller method is the way to go. You’ll still get your money’s worth with only the single Move controller though.
Bocce is probably the most boring of the six activities (don’t retirees play bocce?), as you merely roll balls at other balls, but it’s still entertaining. Volleyball is a great rendition of the sport, complete with bumping, spiking and setting motions recreated in your living room. Gladiatorial Duel feels a slight bit out of place in a sports collection, but it’s a blast in two player, and way better than Wii Sports’ boxing game, by a long shot.
Disc golf is a nice, easygoing take on the sport, although accuracy may be a question for those who like to overthrow. Take your time and you’ll thoroughly enjoy it. Table tennis was the second best, as you smack a ball back and forth using real paddle motions. Sometimes your swings may not read correctly, forcing a spin on the ball rather than power, but after a few tries, you’ll definitely get the hang of it. That brings us to our top favorite, Archery. It’s too much fun shooting fruit with arrows and getting into competitions with friends. And whether you have one Move controller or two, it plays remarkably well. Move over, Robin Hood.
My main complaint is that the game doesn’t save calibration settings. Instead, you have to recalibrate your stance before competing in each activity; a gigantic damper if there ever was one. Furthermore, if you’re a big person (like me), it may not read you properly the first time or two.
The environments are absolutely fantastic, especially in disc golf, where you’ll feel like you’re roaming around a real course, and the same goes for the archery courses and their lush forest settings. However, I wish Sony would have put some personality into its in-game characters. The same actions are repeated over and over without actually presenting the characters as if they were real competitors. They are flaccid stand-ins when they should be athletes – even if they are just table tennis athletes.
More could have been done with the sound, too. It isn’t entirely unpleasant, but there is little music in the game, and the characters don’t have much to say. While it doesn’t destroy the experience by any means, the sparse soundtrack is out of step with the levels of detail displayed in every other aspect of the game.
Considering the joy that the multiplayer options bring and the sheer feel of the PlayStation Move working just right with all of the activities (even with the repetitive recalibration), Sports Champions is a winner. While more activities would have been ideal, I’m happy with how this turned out – and eager to see what Sony has cooking for a sequel. How about a badminton?