Wii... I mean, We are the champions...
Motion gaming is synonymous with sports. Not Madden, or FIFA, or even the NBA. It's impossible to say motion gaming and not think of tennis or bowling in Wii Sports. That's just how the cultural zeitgeist works. Until Grandma and Grandpa realize that the PS3 has a lot of must-play exclusives, they're going to keep trying to hit that perfect score with their Miis.
[image1]That's because Sports Champions for the Playstation Move is neither a pack-in nor is it a killer app everyone has to play. Despite that, Sports Champions is an absolute necessity for Sony in their motion gaming campaign. If the title weren't on store shelves, it would feel like a gaping hole in the Move's launch lineup. In the end, if you have a Playstation Move, you'll definitely want to pick up Sports Champions.
Sports Champions readily lends itself to comparisons to Wii Sports... almost too readily. Each sport doesn't have any significant innovations. Simply choose your activity, choose your non-descript avatar, and progress through the ranks until you become a champ. Everything just feels underdeveloped, as if Wii Sports got away with it, so Sports Champions should too.
One thing it does do better than Wii Sports is the one-to-one motion controls, mostly thanks to the Move's precise nature. This means next-to-nothing is out of the player's control. In each of the six sports, there is an opportunity for the player to screw up immensely and it will be that player's fault. Learning to excel at a sport in the game is about as rewarding as it is in real life. Defeating opponents in each sport is exhilarating because of the direct and total control over the action.
[image2]Sports Champions includes six sports: Disc Golf, Gladiator Duel, Archery, Beach Volleyball, Bocce, and Table Tennis - all of which are ultimately categorized in the good, the bad, and the ugly. Easily the best games in this package are Disc Golf, Archery, and the amazing Gladiator Duel.
Gladiator Duel is best played with two Move controllers. One handles your shield, the other your weapon. Combining actions with these two can be totally destructive. Combos don't involve quarter circle turns, or three different punch buttons. Just smash on your opponent in as earnestly as possible. Beating down the computer, or another player, can be more satisfying than hitting buttons in Street Fighter, because you are actually doing the moves.
Archery and Disc Golf are entertaining for the same reason. With two Move controllers, Archery is the same as the real thing. Knocking and arrow, pulling back and firing on a target is fun, because it's fun in real life. Disc Golf is both challenging and entertaining because throwing a frisbee is the same experience in real life as it is in Sports Champions.
[image3]Beach Volleyball and Bocce are largely uninspired and do nothing to show off the Move controllers capabilities. Beach Volleyball treats the player like a child through the whole process. Time is slowed down for each hit so you can be sure to get the right form. With two Move controllers, the play can be startlingly similar to real life, but without all the moving around, volleyball is boring. Bocce is about as close to Bowling as Sports Champions is going to get. It may feel like a rip-off, but as a direct translation of the Italian pastime, it does its job. If you only have one Move controller, it can be passed around for a Bocce tournament just like a single Wii remote. [The GR party had a Bocce battle. It was intense. ~Ed. Nick]
Finally, Table Tennis has the ugly category all to itself. Table Tennis is a hair's breadth away from Wii Tennis, except it plays terribly. Sports Champions doesn't account for the different ways of holding a paddle, nor does it track the player's movements as accurately as any of the other sports. Compared to the other activities in the package, Table Tennis disappoints in all the areas Gladiator Duel, Disc Golf, or Archery excel in.
Ultimately, there's no reason a Move-owning PS3 gamer shouldn't pick up Sports Champions. Stay away if you've only got one controller, because whether you have a Move in each hand can make or break the experience. At $39.99, Sports Champions is good piece of software to go with, especially when you're buying a controller bundle.