Seeing as After Hours Athletes is made up of three separate games I’m going to talk about them individually rather than a single game. First up we have Top Darts which does a great job of recreating all the action and excitement of real-life darts. Ok, I may be going a bit far to say darts is exciting (for anyone other than die-hard fans) but Top Darts is an accurate representation of the game and playing it couldn’t be simpler.
After calibrating the Move and starting a game all you have to do is aim, lock-on and throw. When playing the game you hold the Move controller as if it were a dart and simply point it where you want to throw. You lock onto the spot by holding down the Move button and then release it in the action of throwing. Early on most of your throws go where you’re aiming regardless of your form when throwing, but as you move through the ranks accuracy is enforced more rigidly and every minute wobble in your action sends the dart further off-target.
There are many other games to try including cricket, soccer, Around the Clock, Warfare and Cat and Mouse to name just a few. The rules of each game are explained before you start and you can re-check them any time via the start menu. Around the Clock is the easiest to understand – simply hit every segment on the board in order from one to twenty. In Warfare each player is given ten soldiers (i.e. numbers) and the idea is to eliminate your opponents’ soldiers before they eliminate yours – be careful not to take down your own soldiers though. Cricket is played simultaneously with the batting side trying to score as many runs as they can before they are bowled out. The bowling side takes wickets by hitting the bulls-eye (worth two wickets) or the bull (one wicket). In multiplayer games you can set the difficulty for each player making it easy to effectively handicap matches and make them close.
There are four different locations for you to play darts including an Irish bar, a beach bar the Skyline Lounge and the Diamond Club, both of which are high-class establishments. You can choose from a number of dartboards including some bizarre-looking novelty boards. If none of those boards suit you it’s possible to load your own into the game.
Next up is High Velocity Bowling, which, as the name suggests, is a ten-pin bowling game. Just like Top Darts the controls here as straightforward as you could hope for. First you line up your bowler and click the Move button, the aim your ball and click the Move button again, then simply hold down the trigger and swing your arm as if you were bowling a real ball. You can impart spin on the ball by twisting the controller as you bowl but I found this didn’t work well, often spinning the ball the opposite way to what I intended.
There are a few game modes to play including free play (for up to four players), online, challenges and trick shots. Each time you bowl you choose a pre-set character to play as during that game. There are plenty of characters to choose from and each has different skill ratings for spin, speed and accuracy to help you choose the one who suits you best. There are a seemingly endless number of balls to choose from with different patterns and spin ratings.
In free play and online matches the goal is to out-bowl your opponent while challenges and trick shots have different goals. If you play challenge mode you’ll have three challenges to beat before proceeding to the next level. The first challenge unlocks a new bowler and is usually a head-to-head match against that bowler. The second challenge unlocks a new ball but to win it you’ll have to beat five other players in a tournament that lasts three frames. The third challenge unlocks new clothes and requires you to knock down trickily-placed pins in a certain number of throws. The first level of challenges is easy enough but by the end of level two you’ll be working hard in every challenge.
The trick shots game mode asks you to knock down all the pins with a single ball in some quite strange situations. The first trick shot is the infamous 7-10 split which isn’t much easier here than in real life. After that the challenges get even harder requiring feats such as a perfectly straight bowl, or one where you have to bowl fast enough that witch’s hats don’t knock your ball off-course en-route to the pins. They’re not easy by any means so prepare to fail often.
The last game on offer here is Hustle Kings, a snooker game. Hustle Kings was my least favourite of the three games, primarily because the controls aren’t intuitive, fast or fun – at least in my case. To line up a shot you hold down the trigger and rotate it until the cue is aligned how you want it. You press the Move button to lock the shot in and then hold down the trigger and move the controller back and forth just like it was a pool cue.
That probably sounds easy, and up to a point it is, but accurate shots require a whole lot of fiddling and even then slight wobbles in your motion, or swinging with too much or too little power can send your shot off-target. AI-opponents on the other hand have no such trouble and will sink just about every shot even on the easiest difficulty settings. When adjusting your shot you can hold down circle for fine control and press square to change your view – the overhead view is especially useful when lining up shots. You can add chalk to your cue by pressing triangle and twisting the controller, and do other things such as add spin by pressing ‘x’ and moving the controller around.
There are lines showing where your shot is expected to go and the path of the first ball you hit so it’s not all guesswork but even with that things can go awry. After each shot you’re given an accuracy and power rating out of one hundred to give you some idea of what went wrong or right.
As far as issues go I had a few. In Top Darts it’s extremely hard to be accurate as you progress through the levels, while in simultaneous games played against AI-opponents they throw about four darts to each of your own unless you forgo lining your shots up. In High Velocity Bowling I was disappointed with how simplistically your bowling is replicated on-screen. Having played Wii Bowling on the Wii I know I bowl with a slight hook, but here every ball goes straight unless you choose to spin it (or bowl too hard). The Move controller is much more accurate than the Wii controllers apparently, but there is no evidence of it here.
After Hours Athletes brings together darts, bowling and snooker into a single package with varying success. I found Top Darts entertaining and clearly the pick of the bunch but a real-life dartboard would be just as fun. High Velocity Bowling is alright but nothing there really grabbed me and made me want to keep playing for more than about fifteen minutes at a time. It also feels less realistic than Wii Bowling – a launch game for the Wii that came out back in 2006. As for Hustle Kings it was a game I simply didn’t enjoy - the control scheme is so fussy it takes almost all the fun out of the game. As a package After Hours Athletes is hard to recommend unless you really love darts, bowling and snooker. If you do you may have the perseverance required to get the most out of each of these games. If you don’t love all three then I suggest you look elsewhere for your Move-related fun this Christmas.
Review By: Mike Allison