I don’t mean to brag, but I’m something of a big deal in the boxing ring. World champion, baby. I also hold the title in a number of other sports, including golf, skiing, tennis and bowling. I’m pretty good at archery, too, but sometimes my PlayStation Eye camera reads my stance wrong and assumes I’m automatically aiming at the sky when I try to knock an arrow. If it wasn’t for that occasional mishap, I would no doubt be the reigning champ in all six sports making up Zindagi Games’ Move-infused motion game for the PlayStation 3, Sports Champions 2.
For the record, I’ve never stepped into an actual boxing ring in my life. I’ve only fired a Nerf bow and arrow and, despite living in the mountains for five years, I’ve never once strapped pieces of wood to my feet and hurled myself down a snow-covered cliff all in the name of “fun.” I’m pretty good at tennis, actually, passable at the bowling alley and occasionally manage to make it through a full 18 holes of golf without losing $20 worth of balls.
So, in general, I’m not exactly what you would call a “sports champion.” But that’s why I play video games. I don’t want to recreate my real life performances in these various sports. What I want is a game that closely mimics said sports while offering way more forgiveness for my stupid mistakes and way less potential for black eyes or, you know, death. In that regard, Sports Champions 2 succeeds.
While I’m not as big on SC2’s offerings compared to the original games’ collection of sports, I certainly had fun while playing every single one of them. I miss gladiatorial combat, bocce ball and, most of all, table tennis, but I certainly don’t begrudge a developer for not including their previous game’s offerings in their newest title.
And as far as injuries go in Sports Champion 2, tennis elbow was the worst of my concerns. But I can’t exactly blame the game for my inability to swing a motion controller like a normal human being, putting every ounce of my strength into every swing of the racket or club.
On the whole, I find games like Sports Champions 2 both the hardest and the easiest to review. It’s pretty difficult to mess up the soundtrack of a generic sports game. There’s also nothing resembling a narrative to ponder. The game isn’t trying to reach me on a deep level so much as give me and my friends a fun, more active way to kill some time and look goofy in the process.
And, for the most part, Sports Champions 2 nails that last bit. It’s a lot of fun to play and the controls are usually spot on. When I add top spin to a shot in tennis, pulling hard to slice it away from my opponent, the ball usually goes exactly where I expect it to go. But it’s also that sort of accuracy that makes the occasional poor read all the more noticeable.
I referenced archery earlier. In that instance, if I don’t already have my bow hand out in front of me before reaching for an arrow, the camera assumes that where said hand is resting at my waist is the raised state. So when I do reach back for an arrow and raise my bow hand to prepare my shot, the camera automatically assumes I’m a very short person who has just aimed their bow at the sky. It’s a big annoyance, but one that simply required me to think more carefully about my actions while playing the game. As far as motion controls go, I’m not sure there’s even a fix for something like that. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t seriously jar my experience every now and again when I forget to take my motions in the proper order.
On the whole, Sports Champions 2 offers six sports and three ways to play the game. Players can create their own character from a multitude of customization options, adding a nice personal touch to the gameplay.
Once you’re in the game, you can compete in Cup Play (three tiers of five bouts for each competition), which is where you’ll also unlock new customization options and some special playable characters. There’s also a Free Play mode that gives you easy access to all of the sports and a variety of options for each, meaning you can spend an hour playing through a full 18 holes of golf at one of three locales, or you can play three quick holes and get on with your day. You can even go so far as to adjust the courses to par three layouts only, another nice little touch that similarly pops up in every sport on the disc. Finally, there’s Party Play, which throws quick sports challenges at the player (or competing players) in a random order. This last offering was sorely missed in the original Sports Champions, adding that all-important “party game” feel that a mode that is more fast-paced and chaotic than a few players simply hitting the virtual golf course for 18 holes. When you have a group of friends over, this will be the mode that keeps everyone coming back for more.
Aside from the occasional motion controller mishap and a less than stellar presentation (the game doesn’t try too hard to get you excited about playing), Sports Champions 2 is everything it set out to be. The game modes are perfect for longer sessions or quick bursts of play, and even had me sweating my butt off during a few marathon runs.
Sports Champions 2 makes you feel like its namesake, and it does so in a way that is both easy to learn and fun to pull off. The sports mini-game compilation may feel a bit overplayed at this point but, if you’re looking for motion-controlled gaming with damn-near true-to-life precision, you’re not going to do much better than this.
Sports Champion 2 is praiseworthy and flawed
This review is based on a PlayStation 3 copy of the game provided by the publisher.
About the Author:
Ryan Winslett is an Arizona-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a contributing writer for Gaming Blend and his work has also appeared on Joystiq, Gamasutra and Joystick Division. His only crime is loving too much.
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