Emulating the success of Wii Sports was always going to be a challenge: many Wii owners consider the packed-in game as part and parcel of the Wii experience, some, I’d assume, will never feel the need to buy another game – Bowling, Boxing and Golf is the Wii. Naturally, this hasn’t stopped Sony trying to take a good hard look at what makes the jovial evergreen title such a hit and shoving every last inch of the Move’s technology onto a Blu-ray disk to pick up on what will probably amount to a huge chunk of day one sales. Sports Champions might not be as pick up and play as Wii Sports, but it’s much, much better.
For starters, each of the games included on the disk, from the wonderful Disc Golf to the less-than-wonderful Gladiator Duel boast detailed learning curves and complex mechanics but dress them up with physics and that all-important 1:1 mapping that makes getting better at the game a matter of skill, not luck, and ensures that all the number crunching is completely invisible. You’ll know what to do within a minute, but hours later you’ll start to get good at the game, and when you finally grab a hole in one with the throwing disk, bending it around a rock and over a tree, Sports Champions truly shines.
There’s variation in the games, of course, and whilst overall it’s clear Sony have tried to cover all bases with the control methods behind each title in the pack, there’s enough consistency between them to breed just the right amount of familiarity. Naturally, the visuals remain level throughout, the Home-esque avatars gruffly stereotypical rather than intelligent, but it’s in the controls, where, for example, squeezing the trigger ‘holds’ something, that Sony have really nailed the experience. Likewise, ambiguity is discarded with enough on-screen prompts to measure distance and power to back up any minor niggles that real life motions might introduce.
Table Tennis is a particular highlight. Gone is the waggle and in its place is precision, accuracy and a real sense of connection. Sure, the Move’s rumble isn’t going to make you ache, but the gentle pad when the ball strikes the bat is echoed on screen with visual cues for the ball’s landing place, its spin and its velocity. The bat, represented on screen attached to a transparent player to avoid any issues with the camera, reacts perfectly to your Move controller, and adding curve and precise force to any return of the ball is intuitive and confident. It’s, in a word, brilliant.
Bocce, too, soon becomes a game that best rewards patience and experience. Played out like a mix between crown green bowls and marbles, the slightly esoteric inclusion is a wonderful way to wile away an hour or so with a chilled out friend – at least until the courses become a little too ‘crazy golf’. Thankfully, those without gaming chums will take solice in a comprehensive single player championship for each game in the bundle, along with plenty of progressive Trophies and enough challenge as you move up the rungs to vastly improve your abilities. Multiplayer modes are mostly great, the turn based ones working out the best (with Table Tennis’ split screen affair a slight personal low point).
Sports Champions, then, is the perfect game to pick up alongside your Move when you grab one in a couple of weeks. It’s priced well (at around £25), offers lots of gameplay and a couple of real gems. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of the archery, I know some people are and it’s reasonable to assume that everyone will have their favourites. After all, I couldn’t stand Wii Sports Boxing but I know someone that played it ad infinitum.
- Disc Golf is fabulously accurate and endlessly addictive
- It’s great value for money
- Table tennis shows just what the Move can do
- Gladiator Duel is a tad dull and lifeless
- Really requires two controllers to get the most of it
- Table tennis doesn’t feel as fluid or fun with the split screen