A quick look at the box confirms it – you’re in for the night of your life. Celebrities, sports mini-games, and Avril Lavigne making devil-horns on a 4-fingered cartoon hand. “The latest must-have party game!” Oh boy!
Starting single-player tournament mode, you’re offered 25 characters, 15 of which are generic stereotypes, including a goth guy, a wild girl, a fat guy, etc, and the other 10 are celebrated people, including LeAnn Rimes, Sugar Ray Leonard, Avril Lavigne, Fergie, and Nelly Furtado. These are the 5 recognizable names. The other 5 may as well be additional generic characters. Given that this is GameBrit, and not GameYank, EA has not considered its audience. What European gamer, especially the early-teens age group this game is aimed at, could recognise an American football star, or a female American soccer player? On that note, we move onto the gameplay itself.
Avril Lavigne is arguably the main star of the game, so anticipate failure, it only seem fitting. After that you can select 3 rivals to compete against, in this case Fergie, avec digital lady-lumps; Nelly Furtado; and Paul Pierce, who looks like a basketballer of some sort.
Playing the first mini-game, volleyball, the first thing you’ll be aware of is the lack of sophistication in controls. Flick the remote up to knock the ball up, flick down to knock it down, and the A button has you jump four-times your own height, all while your character is moving independently of you. Understandably it’s meant to be easy, but not win-first-try easy, surely? A possible upside is that it’s so easy that you can play it with your older relatives, and you could lie and say that Paul Pierce is an SAS war hero, and that Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas is actually Sarah ‘Fergie’ Ferguson, Duchess of York. They’ll like that. Of course Avril may have been given the best stats as a character, being the top dog. Except that’s not the case, even chunky American footballer Reggie Bush, who’d you expect to be slower and stronger plays the same as does every character plays the same. The celebrities are just a gimmick. They don’t even say anything. Their names and smiling likenesses are the only evidence of character throughout.
The tournament mode takes ten rounds, and allows you to unlock further generic characters, including Elise from the SSX series. As these characters have no unique statistics, it isn’t really worth completing the tournament mode with every character in order to get them. Multiplayer mode improves the game, but after trying each of the 12 mini-games you’d only want to play dodgeball. 1 out of 12 is not a great result, EA freestyle. One player, a seasoned gamer, called it “Pathetic”, and the other, a sports fan who doesn’t own a console, found it “Gimmicky and substandard.”
If you visit the EA Extras section from the main menu, expecting a Making Of, a music video or two, maybe footage of the celebrities posing so designers could record their likenesses, just to reward the gamer for their purchase you’d be disappointed. What you get is a Credits option, solitary in the entire section. It’s like calling a DVD’s Scene Selector an Easter egg. Nice.
Here’s the breakdown of the best and worst of the mini-games:
My character’s wearing a snow hat with a bobble on top, presumably to compensate for the short skirt and tank top. Simple (steer, boost, jump), few obstacles, and if I come off a ramp and slightly lift my remote then Avril flips upside-down and spins her skis 1080 degrees like a helicopter. EA, you’re not even trying.
Like Robin Hood and Little John, and to a lesser extent ITV’s Gladiators, stand on a beam and paste each other with a big stick. Could have feasibly been fun, even replayable, but controls as reactive as a geriatric’s libido make for a dissatisfying experience. I’ll stick to manikins and horse blood for future interactive celebrity-beating simulation. This is a frantic button-bashing farce.
Free-climbing up a cliff face, avoiding obstacles, and throwing water balloons to stun each other. With a fiddly combo of the D-pad and an upward flicking-motion, it feels like trying to hold the handle and metal of a frying pan together whilst flipping pancakes, and is just as inconvenient. The upside is watching Avril fall down a cliff.
LeAnn Rimes is running on ice in heels, wielding a broom, clearing the path for a rock. How Freudian. This game is difficult to play, as the controls are now over responsive, with the slightest twitch of the wiimote sending your scrub-ice-with-broom meter to full. Takes some time to get used to, as you can alter the velocity and curl of your stone, so takes more skill than most other mini-games. As curling is like a game of bowls on ice, it may be of interest to Grandad, though I doubt he’ll take Paul Pierce the War Hero to victory.
In a break from the cynicism, this is a fairly good mini-game. Roll, duck, dodge, hide behind walls, and catch balls in mid-air with good timing. Explosive and invincibility balls diversify the game, and only being aware of everything happening on-screen will protect you from the barrage. Multiplayer was a good laugh with this one. Plus you can paste Nelly Furtado in the face with a bomb.
And now for that ever-popular sport, flying armed fighter jets through hoops in a canyon. Brings back childhood memories. Awkward controls and narrow levels, combined with slowing to turtle-speed if you miss a hoop, cause this mini-game – though attractive in concept – to be very tedious. Despite this, it’s easy to win, because the computer AI is about as wily as a beached whale; running into walls and firing their missiles at the ground.
In conclusion, though Celebrity Sports Showdown Wii wasn’t ever going to be a hit with experienced gamers, it fails its British audience of Avril-loving teenagers with poor controls, unrecognisable American stars, and a lack of variety in contestants’ abilities. Stick to Wii Play and Wii Sports.