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Review: Sports Champions

Posted by on September 27th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Tags: , ,

Developer: Zindagi Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: September 17th
Format: Retail (Move controllers required)
Price: $39.99
Players: 1-4
Rating: Everyone 10+

I’m struggling a bit to try and find a starting point for this review. Should I compare the game to Wii Sports but then go on to say the level of control is beyond anything we’ve seen on consoles so far? Or snicker at its somewhat generic look/knockoff feel but then explain that the content within the game redeems it wholeheartedly?

I don’t think any review can honestly shy away from comparing Sports Champions to Wii Sports, the game that managed to change the face of the industry and propel Nintendo from last to first in just a few short years. So it’s to Sports Champions’s credit that I feel not only like playing this game with friends, but playing it alone as well, despite the basic assortment of games I’ve played to death many years prior. For those who haven’t touched the Wii, the news is even better.

The reason for this is the level of control that SC gives you, which is completely unparalleled with anything I’ve ever played. The 1:1 movement of the paddle in Table Tennis not only extends left and right, but forwards and backwards as well, requiring the player to move up and down the room to catch the ball (though the earlier tourneys have assists on for new players). The way the Gladiators game manages to feel like your swipes and motions are made out of reflex, instead of necessity to pull off a pre-canned animation. The feel of Bocce Ball and the natural physics that never once make you feel like the game cheated or a throw wasn’t calculated correctly…the only thing coming between you and the difficulty of the later events, in fact, is your own physical skill. I think there will be a genuine amount of people that will find it impossible to complete the hardest tier of events, simply because they’re not quite good enough with their real-life skills of Table Tennis and so on.

There is a varied assortment of games available (Archery, Bocce, Table Tennis, Disc Golf, Gladiator and Volleyball) split up into three cups of ten games each. You’ll face opponents in various venues and get rated by a three star score; get all three stars and you’ll unlock new outfits for the characters. The tourneys are selectable in segments in that you won’t have to fight all ten rounds at once or fear failing a round only to start back from the beginning, which is handy. The best moments in the game are Challenge Rounds, which throws you into some fun minigame-like actions in a small frame of time, such as tic-tac-toe archery.

The venues of the game are quite beautiful, from the rec room with various players in their own games of Table Tennis and arcade machines running in the background, to the lush courses of Disc Golf. But the characters…well, they would be borderline racist if they weren’t so completely ridiculous. You have Jackson, the black basketball player, a Chinese girl who knows kung fu, the Japanese guy who also races and tunes cars, and so on. The characters don’t matter all that much anyways, since they go out of view or become transparent during gameplay, which come to think of it somewhat negates the whole point of unlocking new costumes, but ah well.

The only mark against this game, and a rather serious one at that, is the lack of online support. There are online leaderboards, and the local multiplayer is certainly fun, but why oh why would your flagship title that introduces brand new hardware not include some form of online play? It seems like a huge oversight, one you might chalk up to the launch deadline crunch perhaps, but in any case it’s a fairly big disappointment.

Still, Sports Champions is a blast at $40 and makes for a great multiplayer fest, and more importantly an experience I found myself enjoying even on my own. Given the nature of the title, that strikes me as kind of amazing.

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