Wii launched with Wii Sports and Kinect will have Kinect Sports, so PlayStation Move would seem the odd motion-controlled-gaming-platform out if it didn't have a sports compilation on tap day one. Enter Sports Champions, developed by Zindagi Games, a second-party studios that's been working with Sony on Move since the earliest days of the technology. I mention this fact because, out of the Move's launch lineup, this is the game that seems to best show off the technology's potential – while being incredibly fun, to boot.
Five sports are featured on the disc: disc golf, beach volleyball, archery, table tennis, bocce and ... gladiator arena. (Ah, yes, we watch that one on ESPN all the time.)
Disc golf, volleyball and bocce are nice diversions that all play well, but the gold medalists of Sports Champions are table tennis, archery and – from a more "this is cool and I can't wait to see this built upon" perspective – gladiator arena. Like all of the sports included, these feature tournament modes (with bronze, silver and gold tiers), free play and local multiplayer. Stats from all of them are also tracked on PSN leaderboards.
Table tennis is my absolute favorite experience on Move so far, thanks to it being such an incredibly realistic recreation of the actual sport. Basically, if you've played table tennis, you've played this. Move tracks the tiniest hand and wrist movements all the way up to the positioning of your body while playing, and does so effortlessly. The ball and paddle collide with a satisfyingly realistic sound and feedback; the results of hitting the ball with the paddle are exactly what you'd expect if playing in real life. Plus, the AI opponents are a perfect challenge in the more advanced tournaments.
You'll get a similar effect with archery if you're playing with two Move controllers – and, if you're laying down money on day one, I suggest you do so – minus the tension of the bow. It offers a variety of target challenges in its tournament mode, from tic-tac-toe to hitting a moving cart, pushing it towards your opponent before it reaches you. Reaching back with one Move controller, grabbing a virtual arrow from your virtual quiver, bringing it forward to touch the other controller serving as the "bow," and then pulling back to ready your shot not only works well but is just plain cool. (On a side note, it's possible – even suggested – to "shoot from the hip" if your arms get tired, and they will.)
Finally, gladiator arena puts the dual Move controller to work as a sword and shield. Anyone who's been waiting for a 1:1 sword fighting experience with actual swords -- this is for you. It's not the deepest fighting game, but the swinging accuracy of the sword and maneuverability of the shield combined with some special moves makes it far more strategic and dynamic than, say, the sword game in Wii Sports Resort.
Sports Champions is a great pack-in for Move and well worth buying on its own if you go the a la carte route with the hardware. You'll spend a good chunk of each day playing it and hoping for a sequel. (Can we have bowling and baseball, please?)
This review is based on a final retail copy of Sports Champions provided by Sony.