Published by Sony Computer
Developed by Zindagi Games
Sports games are a natural fit for motion controllers and yet it's by no means an easy thing to create a game that both fully utilises a motion controller and feels natural. Out of the multitude of sports games designed for motion controllers (be that for the Wii remote, Kinect or PlayStation Move) only a precious few have been worthy of both your time and money. Mercifully Sports Champions 2 is one of those rare titles.
Sports Champions 2 offers six sports, three game modes and support for up to four players. Pleasingly the games can either be played with one or two PlayStation Move controllers and when playing with just a single controller five out of the six games control absolutely fine. The three game modes are: Cup Play, Free Play and Party Play. The sports on offer are: boxing, bowling, archery, golf, skiing and tennis. All of the sports except skiing are intuitive and whilst there are tutorials for all of the sports it's only with skiing did I feel as though the tutorial was absolutely necessary. In both tennis and boxing you're moved automatically but you have full control over your choice of shots, punches and block placements in both games. Whether you're doing an uppercut or performing a backhand swing, the controls feel accurate.
The controls in the golf game are the most responsive I've experienced in a motion-controlled golf game to date. One of the shortcomings of most motion-controlled golf games is that whilst drives, and chips generally feel good the putting action isn't as smooth as it should be. That's definitely not the case as putting feels both accurate and fluid. The bowling surpasses what you'll find in the Wii Sports games and feels much more realistic when imparting spin on the ball. I felt like I had more control over my shots in the tennis and delicately chipping the ball over the net felt just as gratifying as serving an ace. Archery is a sport I'd imagine would require you to have two controllers but even with a single controller it still works surprisingly well and felt natural. Skiing in itself isn't a bad experience it's that the actions you're asked to perform can be carried out simply by standing there and putting the controllers in the relevant positions. Out of all the sports on offer here it was the one that didn't immerse me in the experience.
As a single-player experience Sports Champions 2 is enjoyable. The single-player Cup Play mode offers up an assortment of bronze, silver and gold challenges for each of the available sports. The early challenges are essentially tutorials with controls and techniques explained to you before taking on the main challenge. During a challenge you're rated for your performance. You’re given points for fancy manoeuvres such as putting a lot of spin on the ball in bowling or gaining a birdie in golf. These points accumulate and fill stars. The amount of stars you completely fill is what you're awarded at the end of the challenge with the maximum on offer being three. For each of the sports you'll need to amass eighteen stars before you can unlock the next tier of challenges. After completing challenges you're given the opportunity of taking a victory picture and uploading it either to Facebook or making it available on the PlayStation 3 XMB. You'll also have the opportunity to compare your performance with others thanks to the online leaderboards. As you progress through the challenges you'll unlock additional decals, hairstyles and equipment which gives you increased customisation options for your avatar.
The most enjoyable part of the game is the multiplayer experience that’s on offer in the Free Play and Party Play modes. The fact that there are only six sports to play is compensated for by the number of game variations that have been included. Archery for example has six different variations (plus an option which randomises these variations) and these all help to add replay value to the game and enrich the multiplayer experience. Free Play is a mode for one to four players and allows you to pick a sport, choose from up to three locations, multiple game variations and whether to play at night or in the day. Party Play can be enjoyed by two to four players and can be played in a hotseat fashion with just one controller although doing so does limit the choice of sports. You have a choice of either playing a short, medium or long game which contains 3, 5 or 7 games respectively. You can also customise your games if you wish.
One thing stands out when looking at the list of modes on offer is the absence of an online mode. In truth the absence of online play is a disappointment but let's put it into perspective. When I think about games of this nature that I've played before I can honestly say that they are at their best when you are in the same room as your opponents. Watching each other play is a big part of the fun which is something you can't replicate when playing online.
The presentation of Sports Champions 2 is absolutely fine. The character models have a rather simplistic look to them but nevertheless they get the job done. Performance throughout the game is fine with smooth frame rates and acceptable load times. In a lot of games like this you usually have to keep calibrating your motion-sensing controller but there's none of that here after the initial calibration that’s done when you first load up the game. You can switch from sport to sport and player to player without the need for recalibration which is excellent.
All tutorial information in the game is given in text and thanks to the text instructions you're always aware of what needs to be done in the game’s challenges. There's no commentary here and in the events all of the information is shown visually. In fact there are no problems here that hamper the game's accessibility. You are asked to take a picture of yourself and record a sound (which can by something as simple as a hand clap) for yourself prior to starting a Party Play multiplayer game but it's of no real importance as it's always easy to tell whose turn it is by simply looking at the screen.
I have to admit to being rather surprised by how good Sports Champions 2 is. Of the six sports on offer here five have been handled really well and are both enjoyable and intuitive to play. The only disappointment here is the skiing which is neither enjoyable nor intuitive. Even with that disappointment in mind however, there's still over eighty per cent of the content here which feels right and in my opinion that is impressive. Some may think the absence of an online mode is disappointing but as I said earlier, it's not a major problem with a game of this type. If you're looking for a game to while away a few minutes or hours with family and friends this winter then Sports Champions 2 is easy to recommend.