Wii Sports must be the Holy Grail as far as developers of casual video games are concerned. That one Nintendo title has been more or less responsible for the success of the Wii, so a sports package as a launch title for PlayStation Move was a dead certainty. Of all the new controller's compatible titles, this one carries the most weight on its shoulders - but is it actually any good?
To get right to the answer, Sports Champions is good, but nothing more than that. Whereas Wii Sports defined a console and its follow-up introduced a new level of precision in motion control, Sony's effort merely exists as a decent game to play with your new toy. Its selection of sports is somewhat odd, but those that work the best are decent fun and showcase the Move technology better than any of the other launch titles.
The six sports on offer can be split into three groups: the excellent, the playable and the questionable. Starting with the best, Disc Golf, Archery and Bocce are all extremely fun and work very well with the Move technology. Disc Golf is similar to what we've seen in Tiger Woods on Wii, but features 18 holes set across three different environments. With three discs for use when driving, approaching the hole and 'putting', and plenty of depth in the way the discs move through the air, this sport has far more going for it than you might think.
Archery is similar to its Wii Sports Resort appearance and is best when played using two Move controllers. When using both arms it really feels very intuitive, and you'll be targeting objects in no time at all. The way you use the Move controller in your primary hand to pick an arrow from your quiver is really cool, then you tap the two sticks together to load the bow. From here the front Move controller aims while the rear controls power. It's a neat system and one that comes incredibly naturally.
Bocce is Sports Champions' ball game and most resembles Wii Sports' bowling, but it's actually a very different game, and a deceptively tricky one to boot. Essentially it's lawn bowls, with a jack and bigger balls that you need to get as close to it as possible. The difference is that you lob these balls in the air, applying spin with your wrist rather than using the weight of the ball itself, as you do with lawn bowls. Instead of simply rolling along the ground, you can throw a ball over a string of others blocking your path, or aim to the side and add spin to bring your orb back towards the jack.
Next up are the playable but far from perfect Gladiator Duel and Table Tennis. Gladiator Duel is definitely best when played with two Move controllers, with the front stick acting as a shield and the rear as your weapon. Each can be moved independently, meaning you can block an attack from any angle and strike your opponent however you wish. The game struggles if you start moving your weapon faster than it can process - if you spam attacks the hardware won't register all your movements - but on the whole it's a nice demo of Move tied into a simple one-on-one brawler.
Table Tennis is a tricky one. The movement of your paddle in the game is excellent, with the angle determining the spin applied to your shots, but it's also incredibly easy to hit the ball when your intention is to just move the racket into position. It's also much harder to get into than Wii Sports Tennis. The one-to-one movement of the paddle in relation to the Move controller is great, and no doubt this why the sport was picked for the compilation, but it's simply not as instantly playable as casual gamers would want.
Last and definitely least is the dud of the group, Volleyball. Here you control your arms using single or dual Move controllers, but everything feels far too scripted, with you simply moving the controllers at the right time. It's hard to understand why this is in here instead of something like baseball, bowling or tennis.
Each of these sports can be played alone, with friends, or in a Champions Cup against a series of increasingly tough opponents. Complete this cup and you'll unlock a challenge mode for that sport, which is essentially a set of mini-games built around the event's mechanics. There are leaderboards for each event and items to unlock, but that's your lot. If playing alone you'll grow tired of the events fairly quickly, but the multiplayer options should make this one of the most popular Move titles.
Visually Sports Champions uses a realistic style, but with characters that are caricatures of real people. They are exaggerated in terms of their design and animations, which is fine in the more exciting sports but somewhat odd when they're involved in a fairly peaceful game of Bocce. Thankfully there's no annoying announcer to worry about, and you can play your own music if you want.
As an example of the kind of control Move is going to allow in future titles, Sports Champions is easily the best of the launch line-up, but compared to the obvious competition (Wii Sports Resort) it's lacking content. It's still the best of Sony's initial Move titles, but it needed a handful more well-realised sports in order to be classed as a great game.