If there's a game I like to play and to watch, that has to be Beach Volley. When it comes to the best players, olympic champions and the great circuits, I have to look at the at the AVP Nivea Tour, the American competition with the best of the breed. Now Texas-based Soarion Studios is bringing the official game for the iPhone AVP Gold Beach Volleyball [iTunes Link] featuring living legends Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh, Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausse.
The game is packed with a lot of action from the real competition, although it doesn't use those tattooed sponsors! In fact, you can play introduction videos with every player featured in the game, something usually missed with other sports celebrities games. AVP's app also includes video tutorials and background information directly from the menu, something that is absolutely welcome for sports that are not so mainstream and can get to make you passionate about Beach Volleyball.
So, how does it play? The game is full 3D with a TV camera view that allows you to see all the detail from the landscape, game and players. The free view from the camera has to be in my opinion the best approach to a sports game for the platform. The camera moves during the game, which requires you to be quite focused with what's going on because the notion of perspective and distance will change during the game. This actually makes for an exciting gameplay, specially when I compare it with other tennis, football or gold games where the camera stays fixed all times regardless what's going on.
Controls have been simplified to the extent where you don't move the players. Your team will position themselves automatically so you only have to worry about pass, block, dig and ace. A yellow marker indicates which of your players will receive the ball and buttons on the right and left of the screen allow you trigger actions for every player. This might not feel very obvious on your first game, but the control scheme makes a lot of sense after playing a couple of points. It's not so much about hitting the ball at the right time (which is also measure by a bar on the bottom on the screen) but to select each player at the right time, making combinations to surprise your rival.
Despite all the realism and official players and sponsors included there, the game action also boasts of some crazy effects that you would expect in Japanese video games. When you hit the ball with perfect timing, expect it to start smoking at a crazy speed. And yes, the fans will go wild! AVP GOLD Volleyball is a decent take on the tournament that fans of the sport will like, but it's not a simulator. It mixes the realism of having real players backing the app, official sponsors, while other details like the event locations (where is Tropical?) and strategies are more a mixture of realism and fantasy, the app does deliver. However, I would like to see a proper tournament mode, event if we had to play in the fantasy locations, but at least the option to play the whole circuit.
There are some glitches that hardcore fans will need to be positive about, because this is not a real volleyball take, its a fun casual AVP game. I don't get why the official Wilson yellow and white ball is not used here either. The music and sound effects while are useful to get the right timing, they can become annoying after a couple of games. Thumbs up for the developer for implementing such a good camera view, because it makes for a playable game while it looks that you're watching it on TV. There are a couple of issues with the implementation, so don't expect it to be a realistic simulator, its just a fun game to play with your favourite players.