If playing with friends is coming back in style, Sportsfriends is the standard bearer, waving its banner and ushering in a new wave of local multiplayer madness. Not one of the four games features online multiplayer or other connected features (leaderboards, etc.), which means you’ll be forced to gather some friends in order to have fun. Believe me, Sportsfriends contains a cannon-full of fun. The collection of games includes Noah Sasso’s BariBariBall, Douglas Wilson’s Johann Sebastian Joust, Bennett Foddy’s Super Pole Riders, and Ramiro Corbetta’s Hokra. This wide-ranging package contains something for every type and level of gamer; you won’t necessarily have to wrangle up your gamer friends to most enjoy Sportsfriends.
BariBariBall is billed as an ancient fighting competition wherein the player must dunk a ball into his/her color water. When the ball reaches the bottom of the screen, that color team scores. Characters have seven jumps (default) and can attack enemies or throw the ball using the square button. There are three different characters who each have a couple of special techniques. This caters to a multitude of playstyles and also opens up the idea of counter-picking a character who fights best against a given opponent. Sari, for instance, is light, fast, and has a useful wall-hang technique that allows her to be a vital ball-recoverer. Popo, on the other hand, is massively strong and capable of launching Sari across the stage little effort. The more comfortable you become with the basic mechanics (run, jump, punch, toss), the more skillful the matches become. Even though we were still relatively new to the game, Brad and I had some heated moments at this year’s PAX East. Games can be played 1v1 or 2v2, each requiring a different level of strategy and intensity. Of the four games, BariBariBall proved to be the least accessible for non-gamers. Anyone who has ever even heard of Smash Bros., though, should pick it up in no time.
Johann Sebastian Joust is paradoxically the most abstract and the most accessible game of the lot. There isn’t really much going on on-screen besides for portraits that show if you’re in or out. The entire game is played without pressing a button. What makes JSJ work is that in reality, it’s so simple. Stand in a circle with up to 3 other people, holding your controllers. At this point, there’s only one rule – don’t let your controller shake. When the music is calm and slow, your movement should mirror it. A slight jostle will put you out of the game. When the music speeds up, you’ve got some wiggle-room to charge your opponents and cause them to move too much. A few days ago, my roommates and I were playing games. My girlfriend was dreadfully bored, even nodding off at some points. When we started up Johann Sebastian Joust, I extended a controller to her and pleaded with her to just try it. 45 minutes later, we were all four of us stalking and screaming and bouncing around the room. There were no complicated control schemes to learn; no roundabout win conditions; just the one lose condition – shake and you’re out. Funny enough, the brute force tactics that my one roommate was employing (literally tossing us across the room in some cases) didn’t work as well as my girlfriends steady, go-with-the-flow maneuvers. The highlight of the night was when I side kicked my buddy in the chest trying to gain access to his controller. Simply outrageously fun.
Super Pole Riders comes from the guy who slapped grins across everyone’s face with QWOP. The only buttons you’re using here are the two analogue sticks. The left analogue stick moves your character while the right stick adjusts your pole vault. There’s a ball on a string above the ground that you have to kick to one side of the map. This game is hilarious. Yesterday, an onlooker described it as “the greatest thing I’ve ever watched.” The floppy pole vault and awkward limb movements make for undeniably cheeky motions. The mixture of confusion and delight turns to outright epiphany once you complete your first vault. After that, it’s not long before you’re kicking opponents in the face and taking the ball to the house.
Hokra is the most advanced game on the humorously bizarre Sportsfriends timeline. It’s also the only game that must be played 2v2. Again, the color-coding is maintained as you’re tasked to take a ball to your color goal. Hokra is comparable to hockey, as you’re on a flat plane and are required to glide around and pass to be most effective. When on defense, the sole button of the game will speed you up. Speeding into opponents ‘tackles’ them, rendering them inactive for a second. On offense, the same button passes the puck (harder and faster the longer it’s held). A variety of stages and an Arena Create mode allow for a ton of different scenarios, all fun for four. Games get really close once both teams get acclimated with a stage, leading to bouts of screaming and standing up in victory (or disbelief).
I have no complaint with Sportsfriends being offline. I do, however, wish there was something to do if friends happen to not be around. All of the games require at least 2 people to play, and when you have 3 people, you’re sort of stuck playing Johann Sebastion Joust. Both Hokra and Super Pole Riders support a split-controller feature that allows two people to play on one controller. It’s sort of brilliant, when you think about it, and it works really well. This means that there’s no driving need to have four DS4s for one game. Overall, I can’t recommend Sportsfriends more highly if you’ve got a group of friends to play it with. And if you don’t have friends, this game just may be the catalyst to changing that. It’s an absolute blast in a party setting, a combination of competitive, cooperative action that holds something for everyone.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Menu music/theme
- A game for everyone
- Golden Age Multiplayer
What I Dislike:
- 1 and 3 player situations are limiting