If you're a gamer with a penchant for sports titles, chances are you're probably more familiar with developer HB Studios' work on this year's iterations of titles such as EA's NBA Live, NHL, and Rugby. Add to the already impressive list Madden 07, FIFA Street 2 for the PlayStation Portable, and a swathe of cricket games for both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox platforms, and it starts to become pretty apparent what HB Studios' specialty is.
Announced in the latter part of February this year, Big Beach Sports is a Wii-exclusive sports title which lets you play all your favourite beach games such as American Football, volleyball, soccer, beach cricket, disc golf, and bocce without having to leave the couch or get sand out of your shoes when you're done.
Last week, we had the chance to get our first hands-on play of an early development build of the game in Australia. Our sample focused on two of the six available sports: beach cricket and volleyball. This title is very much in the same vein as the console's bundled game--Wii Sports. Several sports are on offer with a focus on fun and multiplayer using up to four Wii Remote controllers. Volleyball features four-player competitive play (two on either side of the net) and is quite similar to both Wii Sports' tennis or the Kicks game in EA Playground. Its gameplay style rewards ball juggling and powerful returns, and features a side-on perspective, allowing you to see the entirety of the court at a glance.
We don't yet know if the game will support custom Mii characters like Wii Sports, but the selection of premade avatars available to choose from seemed reasonably large, and included at least one which appeared to be a monkey. Like so many of the Wii's other gesture-controlled sports, you'll need to swing your remote to make contact with the ball, using upward motions to set the ball up for your fellow teammate, and fast wrist flicks to perform powerful spikes. Our game was played sans Nunchuk, meaning shot selection was limited to returning the ball at various speeds, rather than navigating the court. We're hoping more advanced controls will be offered to experienced players as the title develops further.
Little more exemplifies Australia than its beach culture, so it seemed appropriate that THQ would show off the cricket minigame down under. The cricket component of Big Beach Sports takes place on sandy virtual shores, and puts you in charge of a batsman looking to make runs, or a bowler steaming in trying to get you out. For those not au fait with the subtle nuances of beach cricket, the gist is not dissimilar to regular cricket (or baseball) in that you'll need to hit the ball to score runs. Unlike in traditional cricket, however, being bowled or caught deducts runs rather than eating into your batting order--the perfect mixture of risk-and-reward game mechanics. Multiplayer is slightly different here, and our demo saw all four players taking turns on the batting team rather than two batsmen, one bowler and a roving fielder. Apparently there will be inclusion of a 2v2 player mode to bowl and bat. Careful shot timing is crucial in this game, with a well-paced swing of the remote proving the difference between tonking one over square leg for six, or the ball dribbling off the blade of the bat and into the sand for a single run.
The game has no official ship date yet, with a tentative period of Q3 2008, but no doubt development will see a further tightening of the control system, and we're looking forward to getting our hands on the other sports available. If you like your arm flailing and you're after something to keep the unwashed masses happy at your next get-together, Big Beach Sports looks to already be cementing itself as another contender for your party dollars.