Curling Super Championship Review
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Bowls on ice
DSiWare has been home to some interesting concepts and ideas, developing a diverse library of different experiences of varying standards. Despite this, Curling Super Championship is one of the more unique entries, taking a relatively minor winter sport and turning it into a video game. While some may feel the need to dismiss it off hand, it mostly works well.
For those who don’t actually know what curling is, it’s basically a version of bowls on ice. If you’re not sure what that is, then it’s two teams sliding rather heavy granite stones, known as ‘rocks’, down a length of ice and aiming to get as close to a target as possible. Each team has eight rocks, and points are awarded for each one that is closer to the target than the opposition’s, meaning that it’s technically possible, though unlikely, to win eight points in a single round, or ‘end’. In the case of this title, there are eight ends in a match, and the act of tactically positioning your rocks is a fairly strategic and interesting game, making a match seem like a true battle of wits.
Super Curling Championship does a decent job of giving you intuitive controls over every aspect of the contest. You set off and release the rock with a gradual slide and release of the stylus to determine power, and then you use small, focused swipes to control brushes that can influence the direction and speed, within reason. In the real world there are two team members working the brushes to the frenzied instructions of the captain, but in this case all you see are the brushes. It’s simple: brush to the left or right to influence direction, brush near the rock to slow it down and at a small distance to try and increase speed. If your initial pitch was all wrong then all the brushing in the world won’t save you, but it’s designed to allow intricate adjustments, and the game captures that well.
Tactics are everything in curling, which can typically involve gentle shots for tactical positions or hurling the rock quickly to knock an opponent’s out of the target area. The physics for collisions are well implemented, with a convincing sense that these are heavy rocks that take a bit of moving. Opponents seem fairly well balanced, too, though difficulty is relatively high: we found easy to be about right, in that we could win while feeling challenged. Normal and hard difficulties are home to tough AI, but with practice they are beatable. For those who want to get into the game and conquer it fully there are achievements to unlock, a nice extra.
Those are all of the positives, but there are flaws too. One issue is that all of the game modes – Championship, Quickmatch, Hotseat and Multiplayer – are all restricted to the same rules of eight full ends in a match. While acceptable in the lengthy Championship due to attempts at authenticity, it’s frustrating that playing a one-off match against the computer or another player can’t be customised into a shorter affair; if you want to jump in for a quick five-minute match, you’re out of luck. To its credit the title does provide local multiplayer for sharing one system or if two people own the game, but while optional extras such as achievements have been included it's disappointing more useful options for matches are absent.
Another area where this title struggles is in presentation. There’s a poor first impression when a primitively filmed tutorial video welcomes you to the game, and carries on throughout the title in general. 3D models used for the in-game graphics aren’t particularly easy on the eye, though thankfully the basic visuals for the action itself are competent. Sound is very basic, with looping crowd noises and team captains that all sound the same, regardless of nationality. None of these issues affect the way you play the game, but a different approach to art design in particular may have been worthwhile.
Curling Super Championship does a decent job with the basics of the sport: intuitive controls, decent physics and a good reflection of the tactical nature of each contest contribute to an interesting experience. The lack of customisation for those that want a shorter match is a simple oversight that would have greatly improved the title’s appeal, while presentation is generally below par. It won't convert disinterested observers to the sport, but for those who like curling and want a simulation on DSi, this could be the answer.