After Hours Athletes: review

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Despite the eyebrow-raising title, After Hours Athletes has nothing to do with sex. It is instead a compilation of (the Move versions of) three PSN titles which emulate “sports” favoured by overweight drunkards; darts (Top Darts), bowling (High Velocity Bowling), and pool (Hustle Kings). The blurb gleefully declares “You count score, not calories”. Games which you can play whilst standing still are ideally suited to peripherals such as Move; let’s see how they got on, shall we?

We’ll start with Top Darts, mainly because it’s so terrible it’s best to get all thoughts of it out of the way as soon as possible. You would think, perhaps, that the theoretically simple task of using the Move wand to emulate throwing a dart would result in a game that’s mediocre at worst. Well, Top Darts isn’t the best game to prove or disprove this, as it complicates things more than necessary.

You position the Move controller to aim the on-screen dart at the dartboard, then mimic a throw which dictates your precision and power… right? Not exactly. First, you have to lock on to the area of the dartboard you’re aiming for. With this done, you can then take your throw. Oh no; they’ve ruined the game by making precise throws far too easy, haven’t they? Don’t worry, they haven’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. Only sheer luck or an act of God will result in the dart landing exactly where you want it to.

It takes blood, sweat and tears to be a darts champion. Mostly sweat, though.

Firstly, holding the Move controller as though you’re holding a dart becomes very uncomfortable very quickly (no fault of the game, here). It really doesn’t matter how you hold it though, as the game is absolutely determined to ignore how and where you want to throw your darts. Try to use the angle and power you’d use when throwing a real dart, and you’re almost certain to hit a completely different number – or, more often than not, veer right off into the black. Try to adapt to the unseen rules of Top Darts’ physics, however, and said rules will seem to differ from dart to dart. Worst of all is that, even at the easiest difficulty, AI opponents are infuriatingly accurate. You can practically hear them thinking their smug and electronic thoughts. Despite including a wide variety of games (Cricket, 501, Round The Clock et al), there’s no reason to subject yourself or your friends to this.

Hustle Kings, on the other hand, is very good indeed. Holding and using a pool/snooker cue (a code for all DLC is included) of course requires two hands, meaning you may be cynical about how well the games can be recreated using the stumpy, one-handed Move wand. It works very well however, primarily perhaps because you can easily play sitting down. In addition, the all-important lining up of a shot is handled superbly.

In the early stages of the offline career, you’re given a line of generous length which shows much of the predicted path of the cue ball – and whichever ball it’s expected to hit. This line changes appropriately according to the angle you hold the cue at, and what spin – if any – you apply. It’s a good way to quickly and naturally teach newbies the intricacies of baize warfare, but may be irritating for those who consider themselves masters of the cue. New initiates and old hands alike will appreciate the wealth of (appropriately tricky) trick shots and challenges however, which quickly demand you wield jumps and swerves like a pro.

If you wish to immediately ignore the prediction lines and play human opponents, you can – both offline and online. These lines can be shortened or forbidden when setting up a game.

Across all modes, both online and off, you earn the game’s ‘HKC’ currency by potting balls and winning games. HKC is used to enter tournaments or gamble against opponents, AI and human alike. It does mean that, depending on a game’s settings, you may find you’re too poor to compete; but it also encourages you to practice, and makes winning these games all the more satisfying (especially against a human opponent). Special mention must be made of the music – which is bloody awful. Thankfully, it can be switched off without sacrificing the satisfying bumps and clicks that accompany each shot.

It may be a very good game, but it doesn't lend itself to exciting screenshots.

Finally we have High Velocity Bowling, a game which seems to have been designed in a board meeting in which the words ‘wacky’ and ‘zany’ were used more than is surely healthy. Thus we have characters such as an undertaker, a mexican wrestler, female bowlers accompanied by painfully unfunny sexual innuendo, and so on. There are themed lanes, such as ‘Barry’s Lair’ (wacky!), one of which even has you knocking down bottles instead of pins (zany!).

Each character has (wacky and zany) quips they’ll come out with after a notable success or failure, which become repetitive within minutes. Despite the tedious costume of wacky zaniness, this is actually a game which takes bowling quite seriously. There are ball bags (oh come on, how old are you?) which you can fill with a small selection of your favourite balls (steady), and there are even subtle differences between certain lane setups which affect how the ball rolls. Most importantly, the basic bowling mechanic works very well.

There are trick shots, which may or may not be wacky and/or zany depending on your world view. You can play online; but there seem to be very few people doing so and ultimately, due to the game trying too hard to impress with zany wackiness, you’ll likely grow tired of the whole experience within a day or two unless you love bowling.

Once this makes the inevitable dive into the bargain bins with a price of a tenner (the RRP is only mid-price), it’ll represent good value for money. If you can’t wait however, we recommend simply downloading Hustle Kings from PSN instead. There’s even a version that doesn’t require Move.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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