Sports Champions 2 Review (PS3)
Like Wii Sports, Sports Champions was a “throw in” game, coming bundled with the Playstation Move controller. And like Wii Sports on the Wii, Sports Champions may just be the best Move game--meaning both systems started strong, but failed to live up to initial offerings.
Sports Champions 2 looks to break that slide, with six sports and increased single and multiplayer options.
Sports Champions 2 offers six sports: Boxing, Tennis, Golf, Bowling, Skiiing, and Archery. Just looking at that list will no doubt remind people of Wii Sports, which leads to one of my biggest complaints. Sports Champions 2 certainly doesn’t push the envelop with its selection of games. This time, there isn’t a left-field, but super fun, game like Bocce. That said, vanilla selection doesn’t mean poor gameplay.
Bowling plays exactly like you’d expect (and probably have done before). It’s fun enough, if you haven’t tired of motion-controlled bowling, and works well too. I actually found it a bit too forgiving, but that’s certainly better for a motion-controlled game than difficult fiddliness.
Tennis and golf are also standard for the genre, and play pretty well. Tennis takes the most practice to get proficient at, and also suffers from the most control issues. It seemed everytime I pulled my hand back (especially on back hands), my body would block the controller from the PS Eye. This isn’t an insurmountable issue, but will require you to make slight adjustments to how you play.
Skiing is ok; again functional enough but not terribly exciting. You really need to stick landings when coming of jumps. It looks really good, though, and stands out among the rest of the more stationary sports.
Archery has been updated from the first Sports Champions. The idea of pulling a virtual arrow from an imaginary quiver is super-fun, and makes what could otherwise be a pretty mundane sport very enjoyable. Archery also provides the most variety and the most challenge. Despite being a returnee, I suspect most users will find it to be the most fun activity of the mix.
Boxing was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, it is very kinetic; throwing a punch really feels like throwing a punch, all backed up with nice visuals and sound effects. Unfortunately, unless you have two Move controllers, the actual controls are a bit of a mess. It will take you some time to remember which buttons modify what, and what it takes to use your left hand. While I personally didn’t have two Move controllers, that seemingly would solve the problem.
Sports Champions retains the relatively generic feel of the first game, but does add a bit more character through wacky opponents and locales. The visuals have been upgraded, but are still on par with other PS3 games. The effects, replays, and lighting really make for a pleasing and colorful game.
Aurually, the game does a good job of heightening the environments through sound, though the music is as generic as ever.
The main single player mode is a big step up from the previous title, and addresses one of its long term issues. This time, you can create a player, with a surprisingly robust editor. I like how, instead of needing to edit each piece of clothing, you set your character's color pallet. From there, every piece of gear you unlock will match the rest of what you’ve adorned.
You then will take your player into Cup mode, where increasingly difficult AI opponents and challenges await. Being good opens up new gear, hairstyles, etc; they are purely aesthetic, but still fun to unlock.
At the end of each “cup” is a somewhat over the top AI opponent who you’ll need to beat to move on to the next level. Each event also has a “star” rating, meaning that even if you won the event, there’s reason to replay it if you weren’t perfect.
Additionally, there’s a simple free-play mode, and party mode for multiple players. This addition acknowledges that these types of games are best suited for multiple players (though the Cup mode does a lot to challenge that notion).
Sports Champions 2 bests its predecessor in every way, except one very meaningful one: sport selection. Where the original had unique events, like Disc Golf, Bocce, and Beach Volleyball, version 2.0 leans on tradition, and in turn can feel pretty familiar. In fact, four of the events are pulled right from Wii Sports, the grandfather of the genre.
So even though this game looks, sounds, and functions better than just about any other sport mini-game collection, it also may feel a bit stale, right out of the box because of the 'been there, done that' feeling with most of the sports.
Learning Curve: Some of the events will require practice (not that that’s a bad thing), but some nice tutorials will get you started.
Controls: No issues for me, except with Tennis. Boxing is functional, but would work much better with two controllers.
Visuals: A really visually pleasing game. The generic vibe from the first has been given a bit more personality.
Audio: Music is really forgetablle. The sounds make for some nice environments, and certainly aren’t in your face.
Lasting Appeal: A really good mix of single player and multiplayer options. The sports themselves, though, may already feel played out. Load times might drive your crazy.