Take the fun of Wii Sports, add a dollop of international sporting flavor, a dash of the Nintendo DS game Drawn to Life, and put it all on the beach, and you'll end up with THQ's upcoming Big Beach Sports for the Nintendo Wii. This evening, at THQ's annual press event in San Francisco, we had a chance to kick some sand around in a preview version of Big Beach to see how this family-friendly game is shaping up ahead of its release later this year.
Big Beach Sports will feature six sports--volleyball, cricket, soccer, American football, disc golf (or Frisbee golf, as you might know it), and boccie. While the presence of a cricket game speaks to the game's European target audience, THQ producers told us that the rules for all the sports have been simplified so that practically anyone will understand what's going on straight away.
It helps too that the game's controls are easy to learn. The two playable events in the preview build--volleyball and beach cricket--showed off the simple controls to good effect. With volleyball you have several types of serves available--overhand and underhand serves, as well as the jump serve. Each is controlled with the A or B button (or both simultaneously for jump serves) and by swinging the Wii Remote forward. When on defense, you bump and set the ball simply by moving the Wii Remote up, and you can spike the ball by swinging forward and pressing the A or B button for a shallow or lob spike.
Cricket is even simpler. When at bat, all you do is wait for the ball to come your way, bounce on the ground once, and then swing away. You can hold the Wii Remote like a cricket bat if you like, but you don't have to. Give the ball a good whack and you'll be scoring six runs (the equivalent of a home run) in no time. In both volleyball and cricket, you don't control the movement of the players; instead, you're merely focused on putting (or keeping) the ball in play and letting the AI handle the rest of it. Producers said this will be the case for the majority of the different sports events in the game, with American football being the sole exception. In American football you'll be able to control which direction your receivers run when passing the ball.
While the sports won't be very hands-on, the character customization definitely will be. In addition to letting you outfit your created characters with wacky costumes (for example, we played beach volleyball with a monkey and a pirate), the developers behind the game have taken a page from THQ's Drawn to Life to let you get even more creative with your created athlete. By downloading a small creation program to your Nintendo DS from the game on your Wii, you can then draw anything you want on the DS's touch screen. You can choose from different colors and line widths and edit your character's eyes, nose, mouth, and more, and then upload it back to one of six character slots in the Wii version of the game. We're a little bit frightened to see what some of the more "eccentric" Big Beach Sports players manage to draw on their faces, but it seems like a fun tool to mess around with nonetheless.
With a focus on approachability and family-first fun, Big Beach Sports looks to capitalize on the popularity of casual sports titles on the Wii, such as Wii Sports, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, and the upcoming Deca Sports. We'll see how it stacks up against an increasingly crowded field when the game hits stores this June.