Don't be silly, I've not risked my life sharing the Youth Club's beaten down excuse for a table-tennis table with a group of hoods — I've been playing the sport in my living room via PlayStation Move. I've always been a fan of motion controls and, in particular, motion controlled sports games. But brilliant though it was, not even Wii Sports Resort managed to hook me in the same way as Sony's Sports Champions. As such, it's agonising to see the game brushed away as a sports "mini-game" compilation by jaded reviewers, rather than hailed as the motion controlled simulator it is.
Perhaps it's a little overblown to use the word "simulator", but it's not far off. Sports Champions is undoubtedly a sports compilation and reviewers have treated it as such. But I feel in their rush to jack out a middling review that explains Sports Champions' mechanics, they've missed a key point.
Sports Champions is much "game" than any other sports compilation I've played. The bronze cups, while an introduction to the Move's fidelity, do not paint the game in the best possible light. I'm currently playing my way through the table-tennis gold cup, and the experience is incredible. It's extraordinary in fact. One thing I've noticed is how each of the AI characters have their own personality and play-style. Boomer, for example, will attempt to block shots and play in a defensive manner. She's not exactly troubling, but she forces mistakes. After a few losses while I tried to look for the killer shot (and ultimately knocked the ball off the table), I realised I needed to adapt my play-style to hers. So instead of going for killer forehands, I started to make her returns difficult. I'd slice the ball into her side of the table, or spin it close to her body. Typically she'd get the return, but it usually left her open to a smash, allowing me to proceed onto the next opponent (who liked to play high shots a lot).
The level of depth is not restricted to the vastly under-rated AI however. The PlayStation Move controller itself makes a huge difference to the way I play the game. In the bronze cup, a number of assists guide the paddle placement so you're just required to swing at shots. It works fine, and the PlayStation Move's accuracy is stunning. But it's when the assists come off that the gameplay opens up. In the gold cup, you're required to place yourself around the table. That means, if the opponent drops the ball short over the net, you're required to step forward into the net and reach toward the ball to return it. It sounds like a simple thing, but because the PlayStation Move can track your position, it's a pretty big game-changer. In order to succeed in the gold cup, you have to be aware of both your swing and footing - exactly as you would in real-life. There's a sense that the learning curve in Sports Champions is not that of a typical game. It's about honing your own ability as a player. It's about learning to play table-tennis.
That's a level of depth that I've yet to really experience in any game. And I'm enjoying the challenge. The AI means I'm constantly looking for new ways to play, while the nature of the PlayStation Move controller itself means I'm improving my technique all the time. I can count on one hand the number of times I've lost a point because of an issue with the controller itself. That's a small percentage given I'm nearing 70 matches played in table tennis.
The depth isn't restricted to table tennis either. While it's clearly my favourite game on offer in Sports Champions; Archery and Bocce both offer similar levels of intrigue. And as such it's frustrating to read those reviews which have clearly not given the game time to mature. Yes, technically Sports Champions is a sports minigame compilation. But it's so much more than that. And it's telling which reviewers have given the game a chance and which haven't. Rush through the bronze cups and impressions will be muted. Play through the gold cups and there's a depth waiting that's yet to be tackled in games of this kind.
It's just a shame it's been so overlooked.
Twiggy is an anonymous PushSquare columnist who has been spotted in three major cities across the globe. Its rumoured hes on the run from the British monarchy who accused him of treason.