Beach Spikers - Virtua Beach Volleyball
Although not usually a popular sport here in the UK, or for the world as a whole, Beach Volleyball appears to becoming rather popular in the world of console gaming. Not only do we have the Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball on the horizon for the XBOX, but now we Beach Spikers on the GameCube. Of course while gamers wait for Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball for all kinds of bouncy reasons, gamers will also be highly excited at the prospect of Beach Spikers as it was created by none other than the creative geniuses who where behind Virtua Tennis.
Like Virtua Tennis the key to successful gameplay is simplicity. Movement is controlled with the control stick and the buttons required are simply the A and B button. There are some moves which require the simultaneous pressing of the A and B button but thankfully pressing the X button will also perform these actions. So in essence then all you have to worry about is the control stick and three buttons and it will take you all of three minutes to feel comfortable with the game. The developers have even been so kind as to string together a series of small, but useful, tutorials that explain all the gameplay functions. These tutorials are all in text and take hardly any time at all.
There are three gameplay modes on offer in Beach Spikers; an Arcade mode, a VS mode and a World Tour mode. Arcade mode is for one (you have to control the two ladies) or two players and it can either be played co-operatively with both players on the same team, or head to head with the second player taking charge of the opponents. In Arcade mode you can set the amount of points you begin with. Arcade mode sees you play a tournament with quarter finals, semi-finals, final and championship matches. VS mode is where upto four players can either take part in a game or participate in a range of mini-games called Beach Flags - in which your lady has to lie down on the ground, get up and run to be the first to collect a flag in a knockout style competition; Beach Countdown - which is in essence Beach Volleyball with a bomb and a limited amount of time, if the ball hits the ground or the time runs out whilst you have the bomb you lose; and finally there's Beach P.K. - which is kind of like a penalty shoot-out, Beach Volleyball style, probably the least entertaining of the three mini-games.
For the single player World Tour mode is where the action is. Here you play as only half the team and your AI team mate begins as a rather useless Volleyball player. After every game you take part in, you receive teamwork points and points for your result. These points can be used to improve the abilities for your AI team mate. There is also something called a teamwork percentage. During a match you will have a couple of court changes, where the teams swap sides, and you will have a chance to interact with your team mate. You can choose to praise, encourage, reprimand or do nothing. Picking the right option will see your teamwork percentage rise whilst choosing inappropriately will decrease the rating. When creating your team you can customise everything from costumes to the looks of both your player and the AI player. There are also lots of hidden extras that are just waiting to be unlocked in World Tour mode. If there is one criticism that can be levelled at the World Tour mode, it is that for 5 of the tournaments (there are 8 in all) your player simply isn't good enough to enable you to progress very far. Thankfully though, you can take your team on a World Tour again after completing one complete Tour and all the AI team mates improvements are intact so you have a far greater chance of success the second time around.
Like the graphics in Virtua Striker 3, the ones in Beach Spikers are excellent. The character models have been very well done. Instead of choosing to exaggerate the female bodies the developers have kept the female characters realistic in order for gamers to concentrate on the game instead of the effects of gravity on the female breasts and the game is all the better for it. There are a nice selection of courts that all look great. The SEGA tournament has a giant Sonic whilst the Nintendo courts is awash with giant GameCubes.
Beach Spikers is deaf gamer friendly. Virtually all the information is given in text and there are only minor omissions such as the comments from the players during the court changes, which are only a word or two anyway. Coloured circles appear on the floor where the ball is expected to arrive and directional arrows point out the direction you need to run in. This actually works a lot better than you might think and even a complete novice will soon be enjoying themselves in no time at all.
Beach Spikers is definitely one of the best games to arrive on the GameCube. As a multiplayer experience it is right up there with Super Smash Bros. Melee. In terms of the single player experience the World Tour mode ensures that you'll keep coming back for more. Just like Virtua Tennis, Beach Spikers is easy to pick up and very difficult to put down.
Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10 Amidst the mass of poor to average titles that are available on the GameCube at the moment, Beach Spikers is a very welcome sight for sore eyes.
Deaf Gamers comment: No problems at all for deaf gamers.