Review: Big Beach Sports (Nintendo Wii)

Big Beach Sports
Publisher: THQ
Developer: HB Studios
Genre: Sports
Release Date: 6/24/2008

Much to my sun-averse chagrin, I have apparently become DHGF’s go-to guy for summer/beach sports bundle games on the Wii. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of room for creativity and excellent gaming in multi-sport game bundles – I just think maybe someone like me, who has to think for a few minutes to remember how many strikes you get in baseball (its 3, right?), is ill-equipped to judge a sports themed minigame package.

So, did Big Beach Sports make me want to get my pasty self into the sun?

Read on to find out…

Story/Modes

To the three of you that read my other sports game review, some of this may seem familiar, but…Story? What story? You’re on a beach. NOW PLAY SOME SPORTS! Of course, sports games are not generally known for stories, but for game modes. This game does offer a few options in that regard, which makes it leaps and bounds ahead of its poorly made counterpart, Summer Sports. There are quick play and tournament options. These are, unsurprisingly, exactly what they sound like. The tournament feature does allow for some variability in difficulty settings as well, so you can amp up the difficulty should you ever choose to play that often.

Story/Modes Rating: Poor (points for modes!)

Graphics

The graphics on the beach are sub-par, which is not a bad thing in and of itself for a game (Tetris doesn’t look good, but it sure is fun!), but…there is only one beach. Every game has the same background. Sure, a tree or two might move, but that would be the extent of the graphics. There is quite a variety in the character models, but in a beach themed sports game, one would think some variety in the beach locations would be nice…One quirk though, what is with the Geico ads everywhere? I mean, I understand targeted advertising in video games – offsets the cost, reaches audiences directly – but, who are they trying to target?

Graphics Rating: Dreadful (for one, and only one, beach. That looks like a crappily drawn beach.)

Sound

Here’s a fun quote from my previous review: “What do the tropical islands sound like? Want to find out? Go buy the cheapest Casio keyboard you can find and press the song demo button that’s labeled “tropical island.” It sounds like the music designers spent about $15 on a sample CD on the rare occasions they managed to get away from stock MIDI.” The music in this particular game is very horribly presented, repetitious, quasi-reggae. The sound effects, while sparse, are adequate enough for, say, a simple java-based game, but I tend to think the Wii is capable of a bit more. Nothing stands out as particularly good or bad, just straight mediocrity down the middle. Except the music. That was just awful.

Sound Rating: Dreadful (for making Jimmy Cliff cry)

Control & Gameplay

This is, again, the section that minigames are all about: in my mind, they should be quick and easy to learn, and highly addictive. The current trend in games is the ubiquitous in-game tutorial, so I also expect to learn the rules right before I play (which, conveniently enough, is a settable option in the options menu).

Football:

When I first started playing football, it confused the hell outta me. Granted, football normally accomplishes that for me, but the controls were not well represented by the tutorial and it took me some trial and error to figure them out on my own. The game itself was boring and got old pretty quickly. This and soccer both had extra small fields. This is presumably to speed up scoring and make them more exciting, but it just comes off as a poorly executed pee-wee football minigame.

Bocce:

Bocce faired a bit better than football, in that the controls were extremely easy to pick up and clearly laid out, but the game itself was nowhere near as exciting as real life Bocce. Real life Bocce, for those that don’t know, lacks excitement in the way that the band Creed lacks credibility.

Volleyball:

Volleyball was a little better still. Controls were mostly intuitive and properly given before the game, and it was pretty easy to pick up. I can see this one being fairly fun with a group of 4. Fun, though, for only about 10 minutes, which is a problem all of the games seem to have. I had some slight timing issues playing; namely, if you are a little late in moving the Wiimote, your character gets hit in the face with the ball. You can, interestingly, still score points this way. Who knew?

Disc Golf:

Disc golf was easy to learn, intuitive, and fun. For precisely one hole. I only ended up playing the front nine and even that got tedious. There is little to no difference between the holes; pars 3 and 4 were generally easily completed in 2 strokes. The backgrounds were all nearly identical. Same beach, slightly different tree groupings. Oh, and, hey, look, there’s a crab…for some reason.

Soccer:

Another kiddie game. If one were to logically extend the proportions of the field based on the characters, the soccer field would have been about 20 feet end to end. As I stated, this is, I suppose, meant to produce fast-paced action soccer, but it just feels like watching pee-wee soccer, where you have a group of 8 kids, constantly all on top of the ball. The small size of the field means that you can use the slide tackle option from the opposite end and still be successful. Since the control for slide tackle is identical to the control for shoot (i.e., wave the Wiimote back and forth), I ended up just waving the thing arbitrarily for the whole game. In spite of starting out down 2-0, and taking a break without pausing to grab a soda, I still won, 2-3.

Cricket:

This was my favorite of the minigames, but that was only because I’m not British. Therefore, I hold cricket in a state of childlike fascination and mystery. I figured out the controls pretty quickly – batting is just like slow baseball, pitching is just like crazy overhand pitching – but I still have no understanding of the game. This isn’t a complaint, mind you – I think cricket SHOULD be shrouded in some air of mystery. If I were forced to play one of these games again, and I got a choice (Ayn Rand refers to this as “desert island” morality, incidentally.), I would play cricket.

Control & Gameplay Rating: Poor (for pip, pip, cheerio! Cricket!)

Replayability

The game does offer some very ill-proportioned rewards for replay. You can get various badges in the game for things like hole-in-one, etc, (same as in Summer Sports, actually) but there is no way to view what you’ve earned. None that I could discern, anyways. There are also winnable trophies in the tournament game mode. Alas, only a masochist would wish to collect those. There are also some unlockable cpu characters, but who cares?

Replayability Rating: Bad (for greater risk, lesser reward)

Balance

This is easily one of the games stronger points. The AI does possess some scalable intelligence, which is certainly a welcome thing in a sports game. There are some detraction points, though, as the golf levels are all far too similar and I didn’t find anything in the front nine I couldn’t nail in two strokes.

Balance Rating: Above Average

Originality

There are definitely some originality cop-outs in the game. It’s a series of sports minigames, for one. Wii Sports and Summer Games have covered this ground already. The addition of cricket in an American game, however, is a creatively interesting choice and one I welcome. The other main boon to originality is the character creation – but more on that in the miscellaneous section. Having the ability to customize characters is a much needed distraction in an otherwise limp, unimaginative title.

Originality Rating: Mediocre (for hey, it sort of looks like me!)

Addictiveness

I can not honestly imagine anyone becoming at all addicted to this game. A few run-throughs of each game were all I needed to become not just bored, but mad at being so damned bored. I think the only way people would ever come back to the game is for some 4-player action, but, there are far better games out there for that…

Addictiveness Rating: Worthless (for a short tour of the beach is far, far more than enough)

Appeal Factor

Ahh, another direct quite from my Summer Sports review: “This game would potentially appeal to everyone – it’s a Wii game through and through. It’s simple enough to pick up and play and is completely inoffensive enough for the Wiis in the old folks’ homes, but with so many other and better minigame based games out there, this one is a poor choice.”

Appeal Factor Rating: Above Average (for everyone can play, no one will love)

Miscellaneous

Ok, time for character creation. The first thing you do on the beach is make an avatar, which is a fairly fun process in and of itself. The “face” portion of the character generator even links with a DS, so you can hand draw certain features. Unlike the Mii creator, there seems to be a great deal more options for clothing, hats, glasses, etc., all of which make for a pretty fun little tool.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great(for a great, innovative variant on Miis.)

The Scores
Modes: Poor
Graphics: Dreadful
Sound: Dreadful
Control and Gameplay: Poor
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Great

FINAL SCORE: POOR GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
If you want beach sports, sit in some sand and play the sports game that came with the system…

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