The PlayStation Move was enjoying an incredible amount of hype around the time Sports Champions was released. Two years later, Zindagi Games is back with Sports Champions 2, only now, the Move has faded away. There’s no hype, none of that marketing push, and no more motion control wars. Sports Champions remains arguably the best Move game to date, and while that reflects on the quality of the rest of the Move catalogue, it also tells you how deserving it is of this sequel.
A big disappointment for me going in was the developers’ decision to drop table tennis in Sports Champions 2. It is, by a considerable margin, the best motion-controlled sports game out there. But table tennis isn’t the only one. Most of the sports from the first game don’t return; archery being the only one to survive. The new sports this time around are bowling, skiing, boxing, golf and tennis.
Game modes are quite similar to the first game. There’s a Cup mode, where you can take on AI opponents across three levels/medals. This time though, most sports also have mini games to play through, such as taking down as many pins in a limited time in bowling, or hitting a shot through a series of rings in tennis. There’s the Exhibition mode as well as a Party mode that gives you all of the game’s content from the outset and allows you to create custom playlists. In Cup mode, winning now rewards you with clothes, equipment, hairstyles, head gear and decals for your character, but it’s all strictly cosmetic.
So let’s get to the sports themselves.
Kinect has it, the Wii has it, and the Move too has a bowling game already in the form of High Velocity Bowling. But all of those pale in comparison to Sports Champions 2. It doesn’t have the depth of HVB in terms of different kinds of balls, but in terms of sheer fun, it’s on a different level. From varying the power, to timing your release, to applying exactly as much spin as you want, bowling in Sports Champions 2 absolutely nails it.
Boxing replaces gladiator duel from the first game. It offers far more combat options and is more strategic as well, but the problem is you’ll need two Move controllers to play it the way it’s meant to be played. There’s depth to the combat with the ability to throw jabs, upper cuts, hooks and haymakers. You can target either the head or the torso as well as dodge incoming attacks. It’s the most tiring sport of them all, but knocking out a half-decent opponent does feel very rewarding.
Of all the sports in this game, skiing feels the most awkward to control. It’s fine with one controller, but with two, turning (or rather steering) can be a bit unresponsive and inaccurate. You also have very limited control over proceedings. Once you reach a certain speed, all you have to do is steer till the finish line, briefly trying to perform a flip or two when you catch some air. It may be fun in multiplayer, but solo, I can see this being one of the less popular sports of the bunch.
Archery is the only sport to return from the first game, but there have been a few additions made. Aside from the standard archery range, you now have more complex challenges, with multiple moving targets and score multipliers. There’s also a memory-based challenge that tasks you with remembering target locations and beating the opponent to them. It was one of the more fun sports in the first game, and it’s the same here too.
I quite enjoyed disc golf in the first game and I prefer it over the inclusion of traditional golf in the sequel, purely because the former lent itself better to motion controls. You won’t need to know too much about golf to play this, although the scoring system might leave you confused. For some reason, all my strokes tended to veer to the left despite making a conscious effort to aim to the right. It could be that my swing was wrong, but I never had that issue with the far more technical Tiger Woods games. You won’t have to worry about the various clubs or the contours of the putting surface too much either. On the golf games scale, this one sits closer to Everybody’s Golf than Tiger Woods.
I was hoping tennis would be the one sport than would keep me coming back to Sports Champions 2, much like table tennis did with its predecessor, but sadly, it isn’t nearly as much fun as I’d hoped. For starters, anyone familiar with tennis games will find the camera too low and close to the player. You don’t seem to have too much control over power or direction of your strokes, and while you can perform slices, top spins, drops and lobs, the risk-reward ratio with all of them seems pretty much the same. As far as tennis games on Move go, Grand Slam Tennis 2 remains the one to beat.
In terms of presentation, Sports Champions 2 looks much like its predecessor, which is to say it’s serviceable and just about does the job. Some of the menus could have been better designed and the in-game visuals could be crisper, but this is pretty much a case of form following function. All sports can be played with one Move controller, and the only one that really benefits from a second controller is boxing. Local multiplayer is now easier to get into with the Party mode and a simple one-time controller calibration, but online multiplayer is still missing.
Unlike table tennis in the first game, Sports Champions 2 doesn’t have the one killer sport that will keep you hooked for months. In bowling, archery and boxing, you have three drastically different sports that are a lot of fun. That’s not to say that the other three sports are bad, but you won’t find yourself going back to those too often. Sports Champions 2 is more of an extension to the franchise than a sequel – five new sports to add to the six you already had. If you’ve been looking for a reason to dust off your Move kit, you won’t find too many better than this.