When the Playstation Move hit the market, it shipped with Sports Champions. Since the launch of the Move, there have only really been a few games that truly utilize the motion controller properly. Sports Champions is still one of the best Move games out there – and that is an indicator of how much of a great game it is. San Diego Studio’s and Zindagi Games’ Sports Champions 2 may appear like more of the same at first; but with new sports and improved archery, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might have been “if it ain’t broke, take the best parts, make them better, add new stuff, and laugh all the way to the bank”*, if it wasn’t for the odd choice of content.
Sports Champions 2 has its work cut out for it. Most people who bought almost any of the Playstation Move bundles would have discovered Sports Champions due to the fact that is was included with the hardware. As a non-bundled product, by definition: Sports Champions 2 has to be able to stand on its own -which it does for the most part- on a platform that many have expressed disappointment with**.
The single-player Cup mode starts with you designing your in-game personality (a big step above Sports Champions) and takes you through each sport with increasingly difficult opponents and challenges. Winning means that you gain stars and unlock rewards (which are just aesthetic improvements that you can apply to your character). There is also a Free-Play mode, as well as a multi-player Party mode. The Party mode allows you to set up the game for up to four players, and you are also able to configure the duration of the challenges by the number of sports you will play in succession. All three of these modes are solid, and I enjoyed engaging each one in turn.
Oooh! Shooting gallery!
Archery makes a triumphant return, and is accompanied by five more sports: skiing, bowling, golf, boxing, and tennis. There is a healthy amount of variety with the sports offered in this latest title, and they are all relatively well implemented. However, in my opinion the choices could be considered a little bit too safe and familiar; I have to say, I really enjoyed some of the “different” offerings from the first game (like bocce and medieval combat), which offered the player an atypical experience.
As I previously indicated, the selection of games listed above are actually done well. Controls for each game make sense and the developers did a great job with tying everything to intuitive routines with the Move controllers. While the games can all be played with one Move controller, it can be an awkward prospect for some sports (like boxing); other sports like skiing and archery lose a lot of their fun when you are forced to use only a single controller. So, while you don’t need two, it’s just a better overall experience. Some of the sports, like bowling and skiing are fairly forgiving, allowing the players a little wiggle room for performance. Archery, on the other hand, is more challenging than its previous iteration – which suits me just fine.
Of course, there are some oddities as well. During one of the boxing games (this happened during Party mode), the combo detection was a little off, foiling any attempt for any players starting with a dodge to fail the rest of the combo. Tennis is also a pain in the butt, boasting the most finicky motion detection out of all of the games. I spent quite a long time getting frustrated when seemed that I could not consistently hit the ball in certain areas of the court. Later on (and I have no idea why I did this), my control issues went away when I switched from my dominant hand to my weak one.
The only thing that could make this better would be The Dude sitting in the background.
Graphics and sound are both decent enough. Visuals gain quite an edge over the previous version due to improved lighting, textures, and better use of colour. From a sound perspective, things feel a bit more realistic when you are engaged in the sports – which probably doesn’t matter given the muzak that is playing in the background. Of course, I don’t necessarily mean that as an insult – the overall vibe of the game smacks of 80’s sports coverage, giving the game a hefty amount of kitsch, which just contributes to the charm.
Overall the game is fun to play thanks to the well-implemented controls and the fresh graphics and sound; but it can also be boring due to the fact that we have played a few iterations of these sports before. Being able to customize your character partially makes up for some of this, as does the return of the “take a photo holding sporting equipment” gimmick. Luckily, the single-player Cup mode and the multi-player Party mode spice things up. If you’re looking for some new sports to try out with your Playstation Move, or if you are looking for a fun party game to play on New Year’s Eve, this might be the game for you.