The weather is still crazy and hot, and doing sports outside might not be the greatest idea. But thanks to Sony’s San Diego Studio and Zindagi Games, one can still have a lot of fun indoors with Sports Champions 2.
Play your successful sports career in 6 disciplines.
Wii play sports a bit differently
From the general premise and looks of it, Sports Champions 2 feels and plays very similarly to Wii Sports. There might not be the option to use one’s own avatar, but there’s certainly a high amount of clothes customization and fun which sets the games collection apart from more serious sports games. On offer are 6 sports in various forms: bowling, boxing, archery, skiing, golf and tennis. Despite the often repetitive nature of the games themselves, there are a fair amount of modes to unlock to get bronze, silver and gold medals, adding to the longevity of the game.
Bowling is a very simple affair and doesn’t require a lot of skills or dexterity after one gets to grips with the exact movements and rolling the ball into the center of the kegs. Boxing is a much more strategic game, because it forces the player to keep an eye on the opponent’s movements and one’s own stamina and power gauge. Landing a hit with a special attack after this gauge is built up in a short amount of time is both satisfying and a direct result of patience and timing. Archery is pretty easy in theory and, like bowling, doesn’t pose much of a challenge with its gameplay mechanics, although competing against an opponent in some mini games can get hectic. Skiing is something of a mixed bag, because the controls are less responsive and it often feels as if a normal PS3 gamepad would have suited the racing much better. Golf and tennis are rather conventional games and only offer a bit more variety with their mini games.
Minigames with boss fights, no shovelware
Breaking up the monotony of the general gameplay is the inclusion of various mini games. These are reminiscent of fun arcade sports games like Virtua Tennis, i.e. one has to hit targets in the respective sports games’ ways. In golf, the ball has to be shot through as many hoops in the air as possible. The more the better and if the ball then lands closest to the hole, even more bonus points are added to the general score. Tennis uses the same hoop goal mechanic (obviously minus the final hole). In bowling, the position of the character has to be changed and specific rows of kegs cleared. In boxing, certain body parts of a dummy have to be hit in consecutive strikes. This becomes quite difficult, because it plays like a kind of QTE game, i.e. three button presses have to be performed correctly in quick succession. Archery uses a fun, but also quite frustrating game of memorizing pictures on a wall and then hitting the correct matching tiles before the opponent does. It also has a shooting gallery with moving objects, while a sort of fantasy scenario with oncoming paper monsters to fight back also adds to much fun but also frustration.
The often fun Challenges (or mini games) are spiced up with some boss battles. This sounds more innovative and gameplay-changing than it actually is, because it doesn’t mean much more than introducing an especially strong opponent the player has to compete against in the respective discipline. The characters are quite quirky with their own strange background stories and fun to watch , as the snowman in the skiing or a robot in the tennis discipline attest. But the gameplay itself isn’t much more than a mix of the general game rules and some mini games, turning it more into a final exam than a new experience. What makes both Challenges and boss battles even more difficult is the limited amount of time in which one has to gain as many points as possible to beat the other player.
If one doesn’t want to dive right into the difficult and comprehensive cup mode, there are also other modes to choose from. The simple free mode and multiplayer party mode are especially enticing to compete against friends. What’s also quite nice is that it’s possible to play this with only one controller, even though some games like tennis naturally require more. The idea of having fun together is further highlighted by the various forms of ridiculous accessory like oversized golf clubs, hammers, world globes, boxing gloves, etc. which replace the motion controller in a photo booth where one can pose for a gallery picture with friends (or foes). It’s a bit questionable why the winner can paint over the loser’s avatar picture until it’s indecipherable, but it again shows that this game compilation doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Representing a fun sports experience
The easy-going attitude is not only reflected in the gameplay but also in the general presentation. A rocking soundtrack even in a usually rather posh game of golf or tennis adds to the general entertainment approach, although this brings along some other problems with the characters themselves. There’s no voice acting per se, but a very repetitive collection of often annoying sound effects like grunting, giggling, laughing, etc. which are grating on the ears after a short time. Background sounds like crowd applause add to the atmosphere and even though the background visuals vary in quality, they’re still nice to look at. The character models are fluid but can’t compete with the nearly photorealistic players in a game of Tiger Woods, Fight Night or other more serious EA titles. But then again, this is more of a fun arcade-like experience than a sports simulation, although the controls create a feeling of immersion.
Move it like you mean it
With so many games on offer it’s of course difficult to get all the controls right. Mostly, these are responsive and intuitive. Especially in the case of bowling, golf and tennis, it simply feels great to see the power of one’s strikes reflected on the screen, although this requires a certain amount of subtle and strategic movements. The same holds true for the boxing environment, although here it can also get extremely hard on the limbs and muscles after a while with all the arm wrestling. Unfortunately, as has already been mentioned, the character’s actions in skiing don’t translate very well with the Move system, and archery also gets a bit out of hand when there’s not enough time, and moving the controller back to get arrows isn’t always recognized by the system.
Slightly familiar but still a fun experience
Sports Champions 2 might seem like a rip-off and blatant imitation of Nintendo’s Wii Sports and it certainly shares many similarities in the gameplay and presentation department, but this doesn’t mean it’s not a fun game in its own right. Except for some minor issues, the Move control system works remarkably well and the various disciplines offer enough variety with their mini games and difficulties to last more than a quick gaming session. The technical presentation can’t keep up with more serious sports titles, but the game still looks and sounds rather nice for a casual gaming experience. All in all, it might not win an award for innovation, but for both singleplayer and multiplayer, it’s another strong example of why Sony’s Move system is a viable alternative to Nintendo’s Wii catalogue.
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