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Zindagi Games handles the complementary sports compendium for Sony's new motion controller...
What would a motion controller be these days without a dedicated sports game compendium at launch? The trend was obviously set by Nintendo's Wii Sports back in 2006, a game that has sold over 60 million copies since its launch (thanks almost entirely to bundled copies with the Wii console). Subsequently, whenever we've seen Nintendo reeling out the 'Look! Pensioners playing Wii' marketing spiel, said septuagenarians have usually been seen playing Wii Sports. It'll come as no big surprise, then, that Microsoft and Sony are now jumping on the bandwagon. Kinect will launch with Kinect Sports from Rare in November, while PlayStation Move will have Sports Champions at launch on September 15th.
Beyond all of our casual gaming cynicism though, Sports Champions nails motion controlled gaming right on the nose. It exemplifies the capabilities of Sony's Move controller better than any of the other Move compatible games we've played at this stage and, more importantly, it's the sort of game that would be rubbish without motion controlled gameplay. If you were to minimise Sports Champions' six events down to traditional button presses, then we'd struggle to see any appeal in the gameplay whatsoever. Add in controls that track your movement accurately and use simple to understand but tricky to master gestures (all of which make perfect sense given the sports in question), and the concept is transformed into something that's genuinely enjoyable.
Disc Golf, Gladiator Duel, Archery, Beach Volleyball, Bocce, and Table Tennis are the events on offer, all of which have been tried and tested in previous Wii games. It's clear that originality is at a premium for this particular genre then, so what really sets each title apart from the next is execution and Sports Champions just happens to execute its chosen sports exceptionally well. From the way spin can be imparted on Bocce balls with a flick of the wrist to throwing back-handed Frisbee shots in Disc Golf, or pulling arrows from your quiver in Archery and making precise slam shots in Beach Volleyball, Sports Champions represents its particular sports with noteworthy attention to detail that's then both loyally and reliably translated to the Move controller. Everything from the velocity of a sword swipe in Gladiator Duel to the trajectory of a slice in Table Tennis feels precise and well balanced.
The game is fleshed out with a Champions Mode for each sport, which proceeds through Bronze, Silver, and Gold cups that unlock as you complete each subsequent cup tier. Sports Champions' copious range of characters (and they are definitely characters) have to be beaten individually in each cup tier to progress, making for a sizeable amount of content in the Champions Mode alone. Some of the sports also serve up different types of competitions as you play through the mode as well (e.g. Archery introduces bonus stages where you fire at melons), making for a touch of variation along the way. Progress in the Champions Mode then unlocks an additional Challenge Mode that offers up specific high score competitions for each sport and increases the game's already hearty lifespan in the process.
Some of the sports (Gladiator Duel, Archery, and Volleyball) allow players to use two Move controllers instead of the standard one. In Gladiator Duel, for example, one controller holds your shield while the other is responsible for the sword; Archery has you picking arrows from your quiver and then drawing back the bow with one hand while the other serves as a rest for the arrow; and using two Move controllers in Volleyball lets you do things like throw up the ball up with one hand and serve with the other. In all three cases, using a second Move controller certainly adds to the experience although, to be honest, the control system for all three of these sports is so well optimised that using one Move controller works perfectly well. In other words, if you're only thinking of buying one Move controller then it certainly wouldn't be worth buying a second one to get the most out of Sports Champions alone (unless you're playing with more than one player of course).
Visually, the game is everything you'd expect and want from a casual title. Each one of the 18 characters is well stylised with its own specific moves and techniques in each sporting event. Disc Golf, in particular, shows off the characters at their most varied, while developer Zindagi Games has clearly put a lot of thought and imagination into the tropical Disc Golf course itself. More layers of character are then added with Sports Champions' sound effects, such as the Mongol-like war cry of Tatupu whenever he starts a new event (he looks like a rugby player from Western Samoa). All in all, Zindagi Games has done a very well rounded job on this, its debut title.
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