Power Spike Pro Beach Volleyball
Take the lovely and talented Gabby Reece, add 45 pro volleyball players and match-'em-up in two-on-two tourneys, championships and exhibition matches and this is what you get. It's a simple game on several levels. Control consists of jumping for blocks, attacks for dives and the almighty power spike for, well, spiking. We're not sure who Infogrames hopes to capture with this unique title, but we'll find out this fall.
Download Power Spike Pro Beach Volleyball
I’ve been playing PC and console sport games for more years than I care to admit. Put a new football or baseball game in my face, and I’m there baby! Maybe it’s because, in a vicarious sort of way, it makes me hearken back to my good ‘ol days of high-school athletics (ah, the glory years!). But when a volleyball game was put on my desk to review, my experience (or lack thereof) with the sport, made me somewhat tentative. Of course, this is "beach" volleyball, which conjures up images of sand, sun, and beautiful bouncing... er, volleyballs. Power Spike Pro Beach Volleyball is a two-on-two budget-priced volleyball game that’s easy to learn, but hard to master. With the inclusion of 50 of the top professional male and female players around the world (including Gabrielle Reece, who’s featured on the cover), you’ll participate in tournaments in real-world locations -- representing the country of your choice. So, will this budget-priced spike fest grab your attention, or kick sand in your face? Well, tie your sneakers and pull up your shorts, cause there’s a whole lot a "bumpin" going on!
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Power Spike Pro Beach Volleyball offers three modes of play: Practice, Exhibition, and World Tour. Practice mode allows you to hone your skills against the computer -- and you’d be well advised to do so. During an exhibition match, teams can be made up of male, female, or co-ed players. Initially, you have eight different courts to choose from, with the possibility of "winning" two additional courts as you go. Once you’re ready, you can enter the World Tour. World tour consists of eight separate tournaments -- you earn points based on your finish. You accumulate points as you progress from event to event. Each event is based on the official FIVB -- a 16-team, double-elimination type draw.
The game features a player editor where you can create your own character. First you establish your character’s physical appearance including: skin tone, hair color, jersey/shorts, cap (or no cap), and sunglasses (or no sunglasses). Next you can customize your player’s attributes (strength, serve, block, pass... etc.), which determine your player’s ability on the court. Each attribute starts out with a base value of 50 points and you are given an additional 100 points to distribute amongst them. As you progress through the World Tour, you can earn more attribute points to distribute.
Under the Options menu, you can adjust the following game settings: Difficulty (Amateur, Pro, or All-Star), Cameras (three behind the court views and one side view), Automatic Replay (on or off), Player Indicator, Player Positioning Guide, Aiming cursor (on or off), and Display options (from 640x480 up to 1280x1024). You also have several options in controlling your player. Configure the keyboard or gamepad of your choice (mouse users need not apply), for moving your player and executing the shot (for this review, I used Microsoft’s SideWinder).
Once you’re out on the court, the basics of controlling your player and hitting the ball are quite intuitive. However, learning to hit the ball accurately and effectively to foil your opponent, well, that takes a bit of practice (can’t say I didn’t warn ya!). After your opponent hits the ball, you have the ability to block it. Should you fail, a circular "player’s guide" will mark the spot on your side of the court where the ball is going to land. Using the D-Pad, you need to get your player to that spot ASAP. The degree of proximity you are from this spot will determine how well you hit the ball -- right in the middle, and you’ll hit the ball with a purpose; a little off, and your player will dive and barely hit it; stray too far, and you’ll miss it completely. To return the ball, you press one of three different power-sensitive shot buttons while simultaneously aiming a targeting cursor that enables you to place your shot into your opponent’s court. The length of time you hold down the shot button, dictates the strength of your shot -- too long will likely send it sailing out of bounds; not long enough and it will end up hitting the net (Doh!). The dynamics of this control scheme require not only good hand-eye coordination, but also a fair amount of strategic thinking -- to win consistently, you must be able to predict where your opponent is going to hit the ball.
For all you volleyballers out there, there is a lot to like about Power Spike’s gameplay. Various one to four player CPU or Human controlled single player/multiplayer combinations are at your disposal. The AI is quite challenging, especially on the harder difficulty settings. Your computer opponent will play with "smarts" -- passing and spiking in a realistic manner. The physics of the ball is also quite realistic -- I’m no expert on volleyball, but no complaints here. My main objection to the gameplay is with the inherent nature of the game itself -- run, bump, set, spike; run, bump, set, spike. Get the idea? While it was fun for about an hour, it wasn’t too long before monotony began to set in with this reviewer. There is a decent replay mode, so you can relive your favorite moves again and again -- run, bump, set, spike; run, bump, set, spike (argh!). While I can’t say that I ever really mastered all of the little nuances this game has to offer; I’m not really sure that I care to.
The graphics in the game are adequate at best. I’m not really sure what I expected for a volleyball game, but "inspiring" they are not. My configuration exceeds the recommended requirements and then some -- lack of horsepower was not the problem here, folks! Player models are of a generic look with very few discernable differences between them -- that is, with the exception of a different color scheme. They also appear somewhat blocky, with questionable shading -- different parts of the body appear light and dark. Player animations are rather choppy and the crowd consists of static 2D sprites. Finally, the courts themselves feature sand, sand, and more sand. Problem is, the sand doesn’t really move around the way you would expect it to. One nice touch, though, is the ability to play night games -- the courts look way cool under the lights!
The music isn’t bad, but I’m not sure it’s going to get anybody "pumped" to play volleyball anytime soon. Sound effects are limited to the obligatory crowd noises and the occasional grunts and groans of the players squeaking out of your PC’s speakers.
Pentium III/450 or AMD K6-3/500, 64 MB RAM, 3D video card with 16MB RAM, and 16X or faster CD-ROM drive.
While Power Spike Pro Beach Volleyball isn’t necessarily a bad game, it’s not exactly the kind of game that’ll keep you riveted for hours on end, either. It has a career mode that does give it some replay value. Other than that, its esoteric gameplay suggests one and only one thing -- if you either love to watch or play beach volleyball, give it a shot. If not, budget-priced notwithstanding, you may want to look elsewhere. Now, did I ever tell ya the story about that game-winning homerun I hit senior year...