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Sports Champions couldn't exist without Move's depth perception. Table Tennis stands tall as the reason to invest. Frisbee, Archery, Bocce and Swords may not be as revolutionary but are still solid and enjoyable motion games.
Sports Champions is one of the launch games for the PlayStation 3 Move controller. Although when I say controller, this is really a collection of technology to offer an enhanced Wii-style experience. A camera tracks your movement, you hold a Move controller with glowing ball on the end in one hand and a Navigation controller in the other.
While this feels a little more complex to setup than the Wii, and is more restrictive in terms of where you can play, the effort is well worth it.
Move matches the Wii-mote and MotionPlus by detection acceleration (waggle), orientation (pointing) and rotation (flicks). But it also detects depth by seeing where you are in 3D space. Although this sounds like a minor addition for all that kit, it makes a big difference to game play.
Sports Champions makes best use of this in its Table Tennis game. Like in Wii-Sports Resort you control your shots with the angle and direction of you motion. But unlike the Wii you can also move around the table - by simply moving around in front of your TV.
To pull off an acute angle or drop shot, move in towards the screen and stroke in a gentle direction. To hammer a top spin down the line, back up to give yourself space to generate the spin. Catch wide shots by darting left and right. It works brilliantly, and makes the whole game feel much more realistic. More importantly though, it solves the movement problem without falling back on the Navigation controller.
This ability to know where the bat is in 3D space also makes gentle shots much more consistent. In Wii-Sports Table Tennis, if you want to pull off a gentle shot you run the risk of not moving the Wii-mote enough to trigger it. In Sports Champions you can simply hold the bat still and let the ball hit it - leaving you to worry about the angle and spin.
This ability to know where the bat is in 3D space also makes gentle shots much more consistent.
This all comes together in an environment that takes advantage of the PS3's additional graphical horsepower - so it looks as good as it plays. It's a perfect demonstration of Move because it simply wouldn't work without the technology.
Although I have been largely distracted by Table Tennis, the other events in Sports Champions are also well delivered. Disc Golf again makes excellent use of the controller. Although the throwing action doesn't add very much beyond what we've already seen on the Wii, the improved visuals make the game feel more tactile.
Archery and Bocce are both similar to the Wii versions. Although here there is more variety of challenges to take on. The controls work well, although sometimes Move's pointing feels a little more laggy than the Wii-mote. On the plus site though we found it much easier for the kids to use. On the Wii they always struggle to even get their pointer on the screen, whereas with Move they had no trouble.
Beach Volleyball feels the least motion based game of the set. Actions are triggered with gestures here, rather than the one-to-one real time approach in the other activities. There is enough of a range of motions to keep you engaged though and with multiple players this game works well.
Gladiator Duel again feels a little bit like triggering actions, but the combination of a shield and sword adds a nice bit of complexity. Again this feels more like a fully fledge game than the Wii-Sports sword offering and develops nicely as you progress.
Table Tennis alone was enough of a reason for me to buy the kit and get things setup in the living room.
Sports Champions Table Tennis excels because it relies on Move's depth perception. It is simply magical to move in for a drop shot, or dart out wide to retrieve a smash by simply moving around the room.
But there is still a sense of solid connection that Wii-Sports Resort manages to generate that is sometimes missing here. Nintendo have obviously invested that little bit more to finesse that ball meets bat moment in their game.
But surprisingly for me, I come away very much in favour of Sports Champion. It is a genuine step for in controller technology. Table Tennis alone was enough of a reason for me to buy the kit and get things setup in the living room. I'm looking forward to how other titles make proper use of Move, once we have got the inevitable conversion games out the way.
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