Developer: HB Studios
Release Date: June 28, 2008
It seems like not a week goes by when another pretender of Wii Sports is released, trying to suck up the loose bits of cash floating around the pockets of unaware gamers who think that the poseur title will surely be enough to help them get by until Wii Sports Resort makes its debut. This week, the game that's trying to cash in is Big Beach Sports, and you would do well to stay far, far away.
At first glance, Big Beach Sports seems promising. It features six different events (bocce ball, cricket, disc golf, football, soccer and volleyball), and the manual makes the controls seem so simple that anyone could just pick up a Wiimote and start having a blast. Things continue to look up as you create your own character. While the game itself offers a fairly wide variety of pre-built characters, those with a DS can create and customize their own beachgoer via a wireless connection, and proceed to make an avatar just as crazy and out-there as possible. You can tinker with your character's brows, ears, eyes, mouth and nose, and the variety of drawing tools and colors means that if you can dream it, you can pretty much do it. With these promising experiences, I was downright excited to get into my first event and see what the game had to offer; it was the last time I would ever feel any joy playing Big Beach Sports.
The title's six sports can be played as either a single event alone or against friends, or as a single-player tournament on easy, medium or hard difficulty. Like most games of this type, you have to beat the easy tournament before you can advance, then unlocking medium and eventually hard. You'll likely never get around to unlocking the hard tournaments because as soon as you've played any event once or twice, you'll either grow bored of the game, frustrated by it, or both, and then promptly remove it from the disc tray and take it right back to your local game shop for a trade-in.
The reason why Big Beach Sports is such a waste is largely due to a control scheme that's ineffective at best and broken at worst. Each game has different motion controls governing how to play, and they run the gamut from boring and poorly executed to entirely too complicated and unresponsive. For example, in cricket, all you do is make a windmill motion to pitch or a swinging motion to bat, and that's the entire experience. Once a ball is hit, you can't control fielders or make throws, and the action moves at a snail's pace, invoking yawns and likely not winning any more fans over to this particular sport. Bocce ball is about as bad, with you simply using the control pad to aim your shot and then swinging the Wiimote in an underhand motion to make your throw. A bit of strategy comes into play in this game (and real-life bocce is about this strenuous), so at least it's one area where Big Beach Sports can claim to give you a true, if utterly pedestrian, experience.
At the other end of the scale are the games with controls that are entirely too complicated or unresponsive to work correctly. Soccer is the worst offender, with such an egregious set of button and waggle combinations that it's nearly impossible to do what you want with the ball. Now I know why so many soccer matches end in scoreless ties; if playing the game is half as difficult as trying to figure it out on the Wii, then it's a shock that anyone can understand the rules and mechanics well enough to actually play. Volleyball is also a mess due to the fact that the Wiimote doesn't appear to be sensitive enough to time your swings so that what you do in the living room translates into an actual on-screen action. You'll eventually grow so irate from missed swings and seemingly impossible shot returns that you end up showing the game exactly what you're trying to do by spiking your controller into the floor and shattering it to pieces. Sure, you won't be able to play anymore, but you're probably better off.
None of the events in Big Beach Sports get it right, with football and disc golf featuring troubles of their own. The biggest issue with the game is how it tries to cram complex concepts into a simplified control scheme and comes out with an amalgamation of bad gameplay, sloppy production and an experience in which every event turns out to be more of a chore than fun. I'm all for heart-pounding sports competition, but only when it's because my competitor and I are of equally matched skills, not when I am at an inherent disadvantage because my commands only register about half the time. No game this messy should have ever made it out of QA.
A simple fix that could have made many of the games a lot more fun would have been including Nunchuk support as at least an optional control scheme. Cramming everything into the Wiimote alone makes for a ton of confusing button combinations, and using the d-pad to move characters in three dimensions is never a good idea. Football and soccer would have both immensely benefited from analog controls, and it likely would have brought more life to nearly all the other sports as well. The omission of such a simple concept smacks of a game that is made solely for the most casual of fans, people so uninterested in gaming that they might not even have a virtually mandatory attachment for their controller. So then the rest of us, those who actually care enough to own what could be deemed a necessary peripheral, end up with one hand doing the duty of two.
The presentation further drives home the inherent lack of pizzazz for Big Beach Sports, as all the characters look like Fisher-Price characters and exude the personality of such. These wannabe Miis feature what appears to be an intentionally plastic appearance complete with plastic hair, all with a nice glossy coat of what one can only guess to be Thompson's Water Seal slathered all over their bodies. The little rapscallions are also totally mute, meaning they have to convey their emotions via disappointed headshakes or halfhearted attempts at air guitar. Apparently, the decision was made at some point that since these characters look like plastic that they also have to act like plastic. I don't understand why Miis weren't included as playable options, as their inclusion would have injected a little bit of personality into this otherwise lifeless game.
Since the players don't talk, you're left with nothing to listen to but the annoying, repetitive and unnecessary island drum loop that serves as the game's soundtrack. Spending more than five seconds on any given screen going through the menus and listening to this assault on your ears should qualify as torture, and it ought to be grouped with activities like waterboarding and shoving bamboo under one's fingernails as unacceptable torture techniques.
So the question then becomes is there anything good about Big Beach Sports or anything that makes it worthwhile for a purchase? The short answer is no, but there are a couple of games that provide an entertaining distraction for a very short time. Bocce ball is likely the most fun game to play because it is simple, straightforward, and at least somewhat mimics the real thing. Disc golf is also palatable for much the same reason. Both of these sports have simple, intuitive controls that put the emphasis more on the event itself rather than trying to wrest control from the game to simply get characters to respond to your commands. Sadly, these games are also the most rudimentary and least exciting, and on their own, they aren't likely to hold your attention for long.
Once again what we have here is another game trying to show that it can be just as good as Wii Sports and once again failing miserably. The truth is that Big Beach Sports manages to do a couple of things passably while doing absolutely nothing right. While the title boasts a solid lineup of events that really ought to be fun to play, there is simply no fun to be had with this game. Save your money for Wii Sports Resort. It may or may not be better than the original, but it definitely can't be worse than this.
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