Review: Sports Champions 2 (PS3)
Title: Sports Champions 2
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (3.5 GB)
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Developer: Zindagi Games
ESRB Rating: E10+
Sports Champions 2 is exclusive to PlayStation 3.
**Please Note, at least ONE PlayStation Move Controller is REQUIRED. Sports Champions 2 does not work with any other controllers**
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 292 of the podcast.
The original Sports Champions, a launch title for the PlayStation Move controllers, was received very well, and with the help of being bundled in a couple of different ways, was a very successful game for San Diego Studios and Zindagi Games. It was the best example of the capabilities of the Move controllers, but it was also a great set of games to play, so it isn’t much of a surprise that a follow-up would happen.
Unlike the simplistic environment in the first title, this time around there’s an overlying world that’s used throughout every game, mode, and event. There are 3 main locales, from a California beach, to something akin to the Swiss Alps, and even a Japanese-style mega-dome, every event will be in an area of one of these locations. Oh yeah, you can also choose to play at night, and yes, that includes Golf and Skiing!
This time, only the Archery will feel familiar, as the rest of the events have changed. New to the series are Skiing, Bowling, Boxing, Tennis, and Golf, and again, all do a great job at showing just how powerful the Move controller can be when utilized correctly. Not only that, but the added Party Mode brings the fun for up to 4 players in an incredibly accessible way.
Party Mode can be played with up to 4 people, and can even be played with a single Move Controller. When we played though, we played with 4 controllers, 2 for each of us. Some of the games only require one controller per person though, but it does a good job at making sure whomever playing knows this.. The mode simplifies things immensely, and is quite fun throughout the process. You can choose short, medium, or long gameplay sessions with a randomized playlist, or you can setup a completely customized playlist for your session as well. Each player has the opportunity to take a picture using the PS Eye to be used as an avatar throughout the game. When you pose for the shot, a virtual item like a shield or even a foam finger will appear where your Move controller is, and you’ll even get to choose which item you want. After that, you get the chance to record a quick saying, but be careful, because it’s used a lot throughout the matches during the party.
After each event, you’re shown who came in at what place, and the winner gets to use the Move controller to deface the avatar of the loser by drawing all over it. The drawing aspect is pretty simple, but it’s still pretty cool, and anything done to anyone’s avatar carries-through the entire session. At the end, the overall winner is given the chance to take a Victory Pose, which can be directly uploaded to Facebook, or saved to the XMB for later use. Overall, the action is quick and varied n Party Mode, and it’s done the right way.
You also have the option of individually playing any of the games in Single or Multiplayer, with configurable options for all. Josh and I played a 5-Round Boxing match, oh wait, 4-round, because I knocked him out. The Boxing is great, with, as in every game on the disc, and incredible amount of response and accuracy in the controls. It works great, it’s fun, and it’s definitely a workout. Obviously, and even though it’s not required, you’ll want to have 2 Move controllers for the best result. It’s not as easy to just wail-away as in some other motion-based Boxing titles out there, but it’s not all reality either. You can charge up a super-punch, which even if your opponent is blocking, will stun them for a second. You only get so many though, so there’s definitely a need for strategy.
Archery, as in the first title, is really good. Things have definitely been tweaked, and it feels better overall. The change isn’t huge, but you’ll definitely notice it. This can be played in split-screen with 2 players, and when you get to the multi-tiered wheel of targets, you’ll want to pull your hair out, but in a good way.
Tennis is a definite evolution of Table Tennis from the first game, and for e, the game that took the most time to be effective. Serving is great, but hitting the ball when it comes at you definitely takes some practice. It’s a lot of fun, can be played in split-screen, but is also the game that probably “cheats” the most for the players, especially since your movements are handled by the game. Again, not a bad thing at all, but it’s no Virtua Tennis.
Skiing, the first of the new games that we got to play, is great! It looks fantastic, and plays really well. Controls are very intuitive, and feel completely natural for what you would expect when Skiing. This was definitely one of my favorites, and can get really addictive when you’re trying to set a new quicker time.
Golf is surprisingly good. I’ve never really found a Golf game that I liked with motion controls, and even though I’m still not a huge fan of this scheme in general, this is the best implementation I’ve come across. Unlike many, if you’re off a bit, the ball doesn’t sail to the right or left nearly as bad as it normally does in digital iterations. The way the game recognizes your movements is incredibly accurate, even down to if your club face has opened or closed. This even translates to putting, which is really cool in my opinion. Power is handled a bit different than in other games as well, which could be a blessing or a curse depending on how a player approaches it. To me, it feels more like real Golf. Instead of some others, which tell you that your shot to the hole will require 80% power, and give you a visual representation of your backswing so that you know where to stop, instead, it tells you what percentage you need to be at, but YOU as the player need to figure out, as in the real game of Golf, what 80% power is. It keeps the core ideal of Golf intact, since no one, not even the best Golfer in the world, could always get that right. Once I figured that out, my game improved immensely. The only problem is that if you’re playing with your kids, they may not be able to grasp that concept.
Bowling is, so far, my favorite though. I’m a huge fan of High Velocity Bowling to this day, but this one is definitely a bit more intuitive, and definitely more “Mom Friendly” than HVB. Everything about it is great, from the visuals to the controls, but it also gives me the biggest disappointment, the fact that there’s no online play anywhere in Sports Champions 2. I’m sure that by the time that the majority of the reviews hit, that this will probably be the sore spot that many feature, but I have to say, I’m spoiled by the online play in HVB, and I would definitely be more compelled to play this if I could do so with my PSN friends. This was my biggest complaint with the first game, and I’m sure that I’ll get a tweet or something similar about this complaint, but I don’t care because I really wanted online in this game.
Anyway, past all of that, you’ll also have Cup Mode as in the first game, which takes you through all of the separate games on the disc, in which you’ll play in a variety of Challenges and bouts with AI opponents in increasingly more challenging waves. It’s again very well done, and makes the game quite compelling to keep moving forward.
One last inclusion is the Champion Editor and Creation. You can choose to either use a pre-made champion, or create your own with a vast variety of options. The entire process is intuitive, easy, and a lot of fun. When you complete sections in Cup Mode, you’ll even unlock additional items and costumes to upgrade your champion. You can even make tweaks to uniforms in specific sports, so your options are pretty broad if you choose to do so.
Visually, Sports Champions 2 is both familiar but definitely nicer to look at than the original. The aesthetic throughout the game is in-line with the first, but additional clarity, lighting, and animation are evident everywhere, making this game a treat to view. Additionally, 3D support has been added, and it looks great. 3D actually helps in a few of the events, and Skiing is an absolute blast if you have the capabilities.
The audio is really good, with all sports reproducing an accurate representation of the real thing. Also, custom soundtrack support is included, so you can finally recreate Bowling on a Saturday morning in the 80′s with songs from Bonnie Tyler and Van Halen.
As I said earlier, there is unfortunately no online play in Sports Champions 2. However, there are some fun online tools at your disposal, including Online Leaderboards and direct integration with Facebook (if you choose to use it.) The Facebook integration can be a lot of fun, since you can take a picture after you’ve won your match, and post it directly with a caption that you apply. If you’re not plugged-in to the Internet, you can also choose to save the image to the XMB for later use. Sure, it’s not online play, but this stuff is a lot of fun, and the leaderboards are already getting me to fight for better scores in some events.
Even though I personally wanted an updated Bocce Ball game instead of Archery, I really love what Zindagi has brought to us in Sports Champions 2. Everything has been tweaked, and the fact that you only ever have to do any kind of calibration with your controller when you launch the game is just awesome. No more clicking the Move button when you point at the 3 spots before each event. Now you simply tell the game which controllers you plan to use, and you do that when the game boots up.
The motion is, as expected, completely responsive and smooth as silk. The events are well done, and definitely expanded to be more than just a set of minigames. The addition of the Party Mode is really what puts this game over the top though, and the large amount of options while still keeping the interface simple assures that even non-gamers will be able to have a great time. If you liked the first game, you’ll love Sports Champions 2!
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