Sports Champions

Anyone for bocce?

What does it take to be a sporting champion? Along with physical prowess you must show grit, dedication and determination. You must be willing to make sacrifices and stay focused. On top of all this you must be a stupidly hot woman or hilariously ugly man, and display at least three characteristics stereotypically ascribed to people of your race or nationality.

At least, that's the case if you want to be the kind of sporting champion featured in Sports Champions. But more of that later - let's start with the good news. Sports Champions, despite being yet another compilation of mini-games played by waving a motion controller about as if you're playing a real sport really badly, is actually quite good.

The reasons for this boil down to two simple factors. First, PlayStation Move works. It enables you to aim, hit, throw and do all sorts of other sports-related things easily and accurately. Unlike with so many Wii games, reticules don't wibble, bats don't jiggle and attempts to put spin on balls aren't misinterpreted. There's rarely any perceptible lag and objects almost always behave just as you'd expect them to.

Second, while there's not a huge selection of mini-games in Sports Champions, the ones on offer are generally of a high quality. They have depth and offer challenge. The best ones accurately recreate the experience of playing the sport they're based on, while featuring the kind of fun elements you could only ever find in a videogame.

Take the Archery game, for example. This is played by pointing the Move controller to aim and releasing the trigger button to shoot. If you have two controllers you can draw the other one back like a bow, which enhances the sense of realism but also adds an extra layer of complication you might decide you'd rather do without. In any case, reaching back to pull an arrow from your virtual quiver, taking aim and watching the arrow fly according to accurately recreated laws of physics is deeply satisfying.

The fun element is provided by the targets you're shooting at. These might be moving bullseyes or apples, pumpkins and watermelons. They could be giant bags of swag which drop from the sky and explode in showers of coins, Scott Pilgrim-style.

Or they could be blank targets on a giant game board which switch round to reveal a nought or a cross, depending on which competitor has scored the hit. This last variation is especially good fun during split-screen multiplayer matches. The game becomes about speed more than accuracy as you race to hit the middle target first and stop the other person from getting three in a row.

Archery is also fun in the single-player tournament mode, where you're faced with an increasingly difficult series of target set-ups and ever-more capable opponents. There's a real sense of progression as the challenges get tougher and your skills improve. In other words, Archery is more like a proper game than your average mini-game.

The same goes for Table Tennis. The visual style and certain gameplay elements, such as the glow around balls which indicates spin, are reminiscent of Rockstar's excellent game of the same name. The virtual bat mimics your movements perfectly so you can perform different types of hit, and misses never feel unfair. It's well worth playing through the tutorials to learn just how much depth there is to the game.

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