So I got the Playstation Move Starter Bundle for Christmas. It came with a Move, a PSEye, and Sports Champions. This isn’t so much a review as a summation of my experiences and subsequent thoughts regarding Sony’s foray into motion controls.
Considering its contents, I’ll admit I was a little surprised to see the box as small as it was. The largest thing was probably the case for Sports Champions. The PSEye is actually somewhat tiny..wasn’t expecting that. The bundle also came with a disc containing a slew of Move-enabled demos like Slider and Tumble.
For the most part, I like the way the Move is structured. It’s comfortable to hold in the hand, and that doesn’t change after a few consecutive hours of holding it and swinging it around. The biggest annoyance encountered thus far is the positioning of the Start and Select buttons. They’re on each side of the controller, and it takes a little more concentration than I’d like to stretch a finger out to touch one of them. There were a couple times where the phone would ring while I was in the middle of a Ping Pong match or Gladiator Duel, and it would take me a couple seconds to pause the game, possibly leaving me in a bad position in-game. It may be worth mentioning that the ball on top is actually made of a rubbery material, and is squishy..like a Nerf ball, or something.
Though I’ve yet to encounter any games that need this setup, I was always curious to see how it felt to hold a Dualshock 3 with the Move as a substitute for the Sub controller. It works..at least on paper.
Like any other 1st party Playstation accessory, syncing the Move is as simple as connecting it via a USB cable. You’ll probably want to do some calibrating to make it work well in your environment. You can use the Move to navigate the XMB by holding the trigger and gesturing in the direction you want to go. This takes getting used to, and definitely won’t replace the Dualshock 3 overall, but it works fine for when you don’t want to get up and turn on your DS3 just to navigate to the game.
So this is the game that I’ve gathered most of my impressions from, being the meatiest bit of Move-enabled software in my possession currently. Sports Champions is, as one would guess, a lot like Wii Sports on paper, but it does offer a lot more depth and content for those that want it (though that’s not saying much considering how simple a piece of software Wii Sports is). It offers several sporting events to try out: Table Tennis, Bocce (I don’t even know what this is..), Disc Golf, Gladiator Duel, Volleyball, and Archery. Of these, my favorite thus far is probably Disc Golf, but I’ll go through each one (except Bocce, which I haven’t tried yet), and talk about them briefly.
Table Tennis is kind of like the Wii version and kind of not. Screenshots would have you believe that it’s identical, but the biggest difference is that since the Move can track small motions like twisting your wrist and such, the game is actually very realistic, allowing you to deliver lobs, slices and the like similarly to how you would in real life. Positioning is also taken into account, as well as the angle you’re standing at, making this tie with Gladiator Duel as one of the most engaging events on the disc. I didn’t have a good time with it because I’m absolutely horrible at Table Tennis in real-life, but your mileage may vary.
The reason why Disc Golf is my favorite is because I think it does the best job at illustrating the Move’s 1:1 motion tracking capabilities. As someone who enjoys the game in real life, I was surprised by how well it was captured in digital form. You pick up the disc by holding the trigger, and from there you can position your throw any way you like. You can angle it to control altitude, give it some spin, all the works, all in real-time. It takes some practice to get used to translating your technique onto the Move controller and it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely very accurate. And just like its real life counterpart, the game is relaxing. You can also choose from a few different discs to throw depending on the distance to the basket, and the system will also recognize how much power you’re putting into a throw via the power meter. Disc Golf is also the one that benefits most from the Free Play option in my opinion (other than Archery, perhaps). My only gripe with this event is that I wish there were more locales to play in. There’s already an acceptable amount to be honest, but the advantage to playing the game in digital form is that I can visit any number of areas and enjoy the scenery as I play.
Gladiator Duel is probably the most heavily advertised portion of Sports Champions. And for good reason: Who wouldn’t want to be able to duel their friends and the computer with a sword? Well, Gladiator Duel still isn’t quite there, but it’s much closer than anything else I’ve seen. You still have to flick the controller for the game to recognize a hit gesture, but the game is more about positioning. Depending on how and where you’re holding your controller before you flick it, you can perform uppercuts, thrusts, downward slices, really you can hit in any direction you like. There’s even a challenge where you have to hit individual body parts of a dummy; the very fact this challenge actually works illustrates how many options you have when it comes to make ‘em hurt. You also have a shield that you can use to block enemy attacks, but turtling is discouraged by way of having your shield be able to be chipped away until it’s gone after many hits. There are many other nuances present as well, such as the ability to shield bash your opponent, backstep and sidestep, parry, and stun your opponent briefly via a well-placed blow to the head. Just like in any fighting game, each challenger has a health bar at the top of the screen, and each match is played out in rounds; best two out of three. There’s even a flashy special attack you can perform, and you can usually also win by ring-out. Gladiator Duel is very engaging such that you’ll often to remind yourself (or have the game remind you) to stay within ample view of the camera. It will have you flailing about to overcome your opponent. My arm was actually incredibly sore the next day after completing the Silver Cup championship match.
Volleyball is a lot like the Tennis game in Wii Sports in that it’s not about your position (your character moves around automatically) or even your technique, but your timing. When the ball heads your way, you have a split-second to decide between your three options of setting the ball, spiking it, or bumping. Trying to add depth this sort of game infra-structure proved kind of boring to me, which made this one of my lesser favorites.
Archery was enjoyable, but I sense it would benefit a lot from the presence of a second controller, which would let you hold the bow with one, and notch an arrow with the other. Without that it’s just sort of a relaxing shooting gallery.
I’ve only played two demos on the disc; the one for Time Crisis, and the one for Tumble. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve played a light gun game that takes itself as seriously as Time Crisis Razing Storm does. It was crazy, fast-paced and over the top; just like light gun shooters are supposed to be, in my opinion. On a side note, man did that demo level look a lot like the first level in Metal Gear Solid 4; that can’t be a coincidence, right?
Tumble is another showcase of the Move’s tracking capabilities. The primary premise is very simple. You stack blocks of various shapes and characteristics on top of each other, trying to make a tower as high as possible. If you’ve ever tried to do this in real life, you know that this require precision and a steady hand, something that the Move translates into the game very well.
I was impressed by how accurately Move can track small nuances of hand and wrist motion. Sports Champions makes for an adequate way to illustrate this, but I won’t know for sure whether it was worth the investment until I see what other games do with it.