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Archive for September, 2010

Review of Sports Champions for Playstation Move

Sports Champions
Reviewed by PS3Fitness.com on September 26, 2010.
Summary: A phenomenal launch title that showcases the potential of the Playstation Move for active gaming.

sony move sportsRemember when the Wii first came out, and you played Wii Sports Tennis until your arms were sore, and played Wii Sports Boxing until you were dripping in perspiration? In that sense, Wii Sports was the first “exergame” for the Wii.

I’m happy to say that Sports Championssports champions for Sony Move is the same for the Playstation Move. It’s not a pure “exercise game”, but of the six sports it offers at least two or three will get you moving and your heart even pumping.

Sports Champions can either be purchased separately or bundled with the Playstation Eye and Move Controller.

Before you start up the game, the system will calibrate the Move controller. You’ll see an image of your room on the screen, and you need to stand within a box throughout gameplay. The system will ask you to move your controller to your shoulders, to your side, and to your beltline.

There are six sports to choose from. With each, you can select a tutorial (highly recommended) that talks you through the intricacies of each game. I’ll focus on the games that you’ll find yourself sweating to:

Gladiator Duel:
This is a game where you can choose to use one or two Move controllers. It’s a heck of a lot more fun with two, as you can hold your sword in one hand and your shield in the other and control them independently (with one controller, you have to choose either the sword or the shield by pressing and holding the trigger button). Each time you block a move, it’ll fill up a power meter that’ll let you perform a combo attack. Again, the realism is phenomenal. As you fight your opponents, you’ll see damage caused to their shelds and the surrounding arena (don’t worry though, it’s still rated E for everyone–the actions are pretty violent, but there’s no blood or guts or anything like that). You’ll get a great full body workout from this one as you swing in all directions with your sword one hand and bump your opponent with the shield in the other.

Table Tennis:
I love playing ping-pong in real life, and I enjoyed playing it on Wii Sports Resort with the MotionPlus. But while playing it on the Wii was a lot of fun, I found that it wasn’t the most realistic nor accurate game. I could easily beat the system by making exagerrated movements that didn’t reflect real life, and the on-screen paddle didn’t always mirror my real-life movements. With the Sony Move, you move the controller in your hand, and you see the same movement on screen. You can use real-life movements to add topspin, backspin, and sidespin. The game starts out easy enough, but by the time you advance to higher levels you’ll be working hard to beat your opponents. While the game itself isn’t too much of a workout, trying over and over again to beat the next toughest opponent is great motivation for you to work for an hour or more.

Beach Volleyball:
Unlike the similar activity on EA Sports Active, this plays like actual volleyball. You have the option of using one or two Move controllers. The attention to detail is impressive. The system will move your player around the court, but for your part you have to us timing and technique to serve (underhand or overhand), bump, set, spike, and dive. The tutorial is highly recommended, as you can learn how advanced techniques like tipping and group blocking. Again, attention to detail is great with the blue ocean and the sound of the waves in the background. Again, as you master the basics and move on to more advanced levels you’ll get a great workout.

The other three sports won’t give you too much of a workout, but they’re great for showing off the capabilities of the Move.

Disc Golf:
Here, you compete against each other or the CPU throwing a frisbee on a golf course trying to get to the target. The scenery is breathtaking. You’ll stand on mountaintops, contend with lush forests, and more. Like a real frisbee, you can throw with as much or as little force as you need. You pick up the frisbee by holding the “T” button, and when you release the button it releases the frisbee. The controls are remarkably accurate, although it will take getting used to throwing without having the resistance of a real frisbee.

This is a game where I’d say you need two Move controllers, so you can use one hand to hold the bow and the other to draw the arrow back (similar to Wii Sports Resort). With one Move controller, you’re basically pointing and shooting, which is hardly realistic. Again, graphics are great–you feel like you’re in the middle of Sherwood Forest.

If you don’t know what Bocce is, think of the last time you watched Olympic curling. The rules are very similar. You throw a small ball (called a jacK or a pallino) to set the target. Then, two players (or teams) compete to see who can throw their larger cannonball-sized balls closest to the jack (knocking opponent’s balls away is possible). The game has been around since ancient times. The realism on the game is astounding. You can play on different surfaces (on soil, on a pier, or on asphalt), and the balls react accordingly. To throw the ball, you hold down the Trigger and throw using an underarm motion just like you would the real thing. Letting go of the trigger releases the ball. By adjusting your wrist motion, you can even add spin to the ball.

The details of the game are amazing, and the game developers have a great sense of humor (One of the trophies you earn after playing Bocce is called “I Have Heard of Bocce”. And there’s a neat surprise waiting for you after you win your first Bronze Cup in the different events–I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say it’s a nice look into the “augmented reality” that the Move is ushering in).

Games have levels of beginner, intermediate, and advanced. But unlike other games, playing on the beginner level is definitely challenging and satisfying. Unlike other video games, the controls themselves are not “dumbed down” at beginner levels. Rather, the controls are the same at every level–it’s just that at the beginner level you get more visual “hints” on how to perform your best and the opponents skills are also at a beginner level. So the game won’t get old quickly, because as soon as you master the techniques and dominate at the beginner levels, you get to move on to stronger and stronger opponents and the visual hints start disappearing as you no longer need them.

You might notice the word I keep repeating is “realism”. One thing I appreciate is that Sony didn’t just ape the Wii by copying its cartoony look and feel. Instead, the graphics are photorealistic and really show off the advanced graphics capabilities of the PS3. And while I was initially blown away by the “coolness” factor of the Move Controller, I quickly forgot about that as I immersed myself into actually playing the game–which is a good sign that Sony did its job. None of the games are exactly like the real thing, of course, but they all come closer than any other video game experience before.

It’s a great first effort for Sony. Hopefully it’ll be a good foundation on which other game developers will create new, precise, and fun interactive workout titles.

5 of 5

If you’re curious about the “Playstation Wii”…

…head on over to my review of Playstation Move on our sister site PS3Fitness.Com.

Bottom line: the PlayStation with Move is a phenomenal piece of technology that will really bring motion gaming to the next level. The graphics and sound are phenomenal, and the precision of the motion controls is amazingly accurate.

As for those people who say the Wii is doomed…well, as Mark Twain might say, “reports of its death are greatly exaggerated”. First of all, the Playstation and its games are much, much more expensive than the Wii, so shelling out a few more hundred dollars is probably beyond most families’ budgets. Secondly, while the Playstation is certainly elegant and refined, it does lack a certain personality that Nintendo did so well with the Wii. Long story short, I think there’ll plenty of room for both, just like there’s room for a Peter Luger’s steak and a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese in my life 🙂

As for Microsoft we’ll see. Sony has set the bar very high, so we’ll see if Microsoft truly surpasses it, or if Kinect will go the way of the Kin and the Zune.

Regardless of who prevails in the “motion control wars”, I think we’ll be the winners. My guess is that you should see the quality of Wii games improve as publishers realize they have competition now. Rest assured, this site will continue to review the best Wii fitness games out there, and there will be a lot of them coming in time for Christmas 2010.  Stay tuned!

Review of Playstation Move

Playstation Move

Reviewed by PS3Fitness.com on September 17, 2010.
Summary: Motion Controls come to the Playstation 3, and they’re good!

I’ve owned the PS3 since it was first released, choosing it at the time over other systems like Xbox and Wii because  of innovations such as Blu-Ray and HD graphics. The Blu-Ray was great (I can’t go back to watching standard DVDs anymore), and the graphics on my PS3 games were impressive, but admittedly my PS3 started collecting dust the day I bought a Wii for my nephew and nieces.

It wasn’t too long before I had to get one myself. Let’s just say that I am blessed with…low metabolism. My friends can eat and eat and eat and not gain weight, while I’ll gain 10 pounds just thinking about food. There was something great about how the Wii made you get up out of your chair and move. I successfully lost weight using Wii exercise games, and even started the site Nutwiisystem.com to help others.

But I always hoped that the PS3 would some day support motion controls. As much as I love the Wii and its cute cartoony characters, there’s just something cool about the “virtual reality” of boxing with a real tough looking fighter or hitting fastballs off someone who looks like a real major league pitcher.

Sony’s been a big disappointment to me in recent years. I was irate when they ripped out OtherOS functionality (that was one of the reasons I bought the system in the first place). And I pretty much stopped buying games for the system. I found that the games I played more were on the Wii. Although the Wii, too, was getting a little dry.

And so, I was happy to hear that Sony was coming out with Wii-like motion controls. Sony and Microsoft had all mocked Nintendo back in 2006, but 80,000,000 Wii units later, Nintendo had the last laugh. I was also happy to hear that both were not content to just copy Nintendo’s technology, but actually took it a step further with their own engineering. The burning question, of course, is…did Sony come up with a cheap imitation of the Wii, or did they surpass it?

I’m happy to report the latter. I am very, very impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

I ordered the Playstation Move Starter Bundle, which comes with the Playstation Eye camera, the Sports Champions disc, the Move Controller, and a Game Demo disc. If you don’t have a Playstation 3 already, you can get the PlayStation 3 with Move bundle. And be sure to pick up extra Move Controllers, for reasons I’ll describe below.

The Starter Kit came all wrapped in plastic and in a box which I was happy to see was much smaller than I was expecting (I also picked up a Navigation Controller, which it turns out wasn’t really necessary.

Sony Playstation move Starter Kit package

The Move Controller basically looks like a microphone with a plastic ball on top. I’ve seen pictures and always assumed the ball was blue and made of rigid plastic, but it’s white (it’ll glow different colors) and the plastic was soft. Unlike the Wii remote, the battery is built-in and charged using a USB cable.

Sony Move controller

The Playstation Eye has been around for a while, but never quite caught on (there were a handful of PSN games that used it, but nothing too exciting). It’s basically a high-end Web cam. I already had an Eye, but given the bundled pricing of the kit, it made sense for me to just get another one.

Playstation Eye camera

The demo disc contains an “introductory video” (basically a long commercial with bunch of game scenes set to “I Live to Move It”), a Setup Guide, and demos for Sports Champions, Start the Party, EyePet, Kung Fu Rider, TV Superstars, The Shoot, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, Time Crisis, Echochrome II, Beat Sketcher, and Tumble. Beat Sketcher (where you draw on your screen over an image of yourself) and Tumble (where you use the Move controller to move and stack blocks) are both excellent showcase applications where you can show your friends the capabilities and technology of the Move.

contents of playstation move starter kit

The Setup Guide shows you a little introduction to the Move. Then it takes you through setting up the Motion Controller and the Playstation Eye. Setup was a snap. To set up the Motion Controller, you connect a USB cable to it to charge up its battery (a red LED will blink while it’s charging). Press the PS button to pair the controller to your system. (The unit should be fully charged and disconnected from the USB cable before using it).

To connect the Eye, you have to set the camera to “wide angle move” by turning the lens so the right so the white dot points to the blue dot (something I never knew you could do). You can place it above or below the middle of your TV screen (closest to your shoulder is best). Then, plug it into a free USB port on the PS3. In the documentation they say the Eye must be about 5 to 6.5 feet from the TV, while on the game it says 8 feet. From my experience, 6 feet was good enough, which was just right for my tiny apartment.

The Setup Guide continues with tips, all of which should be familiar to anyone who’s played a Wii, complete with pictures of silhouettes of people knocking lamps over. It does add tips about room lighting, which of course wasn’t an issue with the Wii.

When you start up Sports Champions, your Controller will start to blink. Point the blinking controller to the Eye and hit the “Move” (squggly) button in front + the Trigger (T) button on the back. The controller will turn a bright purple when it’s connected (I admit, I was giddy with excitement when I first saw this). Scroll down reading the terms and conditions where you agree not to sue Sony when you knock Aunt Betty’s lamp into her pet cat, and then you can get started.

Before playing a game, you have to calibrate the Move controller.  The first thing you see is  an actual video image of yourself (that alone is probably the best contribution to weight loss that Sony did–instantly upon seeing myself on TV, I wanted to lose more weight). The system will tell you to stand in a certain area and move your controller to your shoulder, side, and belt buckle to calibrate (you need to adjust the camera so that your whole torso and hips are on the screen).

I’ll write a more detailed review of Sports Champions in a separate post. But I can say was the perfect game to showcase the capabilities of Move. The actions of the screen are truly one-to-one with the actions on your hand. Ping pong on the PS3 really feels like ping pong, where you can move and twist your paddle in real-time (as opposed to in Wii Sports Resort where movement is hurky-jerky and you can beat the system by flailing your arms in an unnatural way). When your real body moves, your on-screen view moves too. And as much as I love my little Mii, there was something nice about controlling photo-realistic looking characters on the screen (the upcoming Kinect Sports uses cartoony characters, so Sony’s alone right now as far as realism in sports games). And since this is a fitness and exercise blog, I will say that yes, I felt my heart rate go up and my muscles get stronger after a few bouts of Gladiator Duel.

As far as figuring out the controls, it was pretty easy, as the Move Controller pretty much mimics the Wii remote (although I was a little disappointed that the controllers don’t have speakers in them).

I’d thought that the Move Navigation Controller (not included in the Starter Kit, unfortunately) would be the equivalent of the Wii nunchuk. It is in the sense that it’s held in your other hand and has a joystick, but it’s not in that it doesn’t have motion control. I’d say it’s really just another version of the Dualshock controller, just one that’s shaped more easily to fit in your hands. I haven’t found a game where you actually need it (in most cases it’s fine, if a little clunky, to hold your regular Dualshock controller in your left hand and use the buttons and joystick with your thumb).

For games that do require controls in both hands, they’ll usually give you the option of using two Move Controllers. From Sports Champions alone, I’d say buying a second Move Controller is required, as the experiences of games such as Gladiator Duel and Archery seem incomplete with only one.

Overall, I’d say that the Playstation Move feels and looks like a “next generation” Wii. Having said that, you will pay a price. To purchase a Playstation console, a Move Starter Kit, three more Move Controllers, four Navigation Controllers, and a few games will run you close to $1000. In this economy, that’s not easy. So I’m going to guess that the Wii will still do just fine as a casual gaming platform for families and friends to play together. On the other hand, relative weakness of Sony’s other launch titles notwithstanding, it’s hard not to feel excited about the potential of the Move, especially with technologies like 3D coming down the road very soon.

And so, I’ll give this five out of five stars. Sony has made the right move, and we’ll see how Microsoft and Nintendo counter. Hopefully the competition will wake up an industry that’s clearly been in need of it, and we’ll see great fitness games for Playstation, Wii, and Xbox.

Just as I do for Wii Fitness Games, in the coming months, I’ll be reviewing the best PS3 games that can be used for fitness and exercise. It should be an exciting couple of months, so stay tuned!

5 of 5

Playstation Move Release Date is Today!

sony moveAs most of you know, Sony released the Playstation Move Playstation Move Starter Bundle today.

I just got my notice that mine is on the way (I paid a little extra to Amazon to have it delivered on the “day of release”)

Come back later today for a full review to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to wii, I mean be 🙂

Want to win a year of free game rentals from GameFly?

GameFlyannounced today that every day throughout the month of September everyone who signs up for a pre-paid GameFly membership will automatically be entered in a sweepstakes to win free rentals for a year.

As I’ve written in the past, I love GameFly. With all the upcoming Wii Fitness games in the next few months, it’s a great way for me to try the games first before I buy it and/or share a review. I have a shelf full of games which I bought and which are just sitting collecting dust after I played them once or twice.

If you’ve been on the fence, no better time than the present to start!