Something seems to be happening on home consoles lately, especially since the PS4 has come out. We are starting to see a return for the local multiplayer games. Towerfall set the bar and Sportfriends aims to follow suit.
Previously when a game has been local co-op or multiplayer only, it has been seen as a bit of a negative, taking away from the experience by not allowing online play. Whilst that has been true in the past, it has been because of the type of games they were. With Towerfall and Sportsfriends, local is the way to go and it works.
Sportsfriends is a pretty small game, boasting just four events, with one of those requiring four players, no more no less. The other three are played with 2-4 players. You hear a fair amount about games that a ideal for parties, the likes of Rock Band, Singstar, Just Dance and the like. The problem with these games, is they require a certain amount of talent and confidence. Not everyone wants to dance or sing infront of other people, no matter how drunk they may be.
This is where Sportfriends fills a gap, it is stupid fun, you require no talent, no need to want to be the life and soul of the party, you just have good old fun with friends and family, sober or a little bit merry. As said there are four events to take part in and each one of them is as simple as can be.
Barabariball has two teams standing on a platform surrounded by water, the idea is to get the ball and throw it into the water on your opponents side, each time you do this, you get a point. You can jump in after the ball to stop the other team scoring, but you will in turn lose a point yourself. It is a really simple concept and can get hectic, especially as four players face off against each other.
Johann Sebastian Joust is probably the standout game of the four, as it doesn’t even require you to pay attention to the TV to play. Up to four players hold a controller, or move controller each (more on that in a bit). They stand in a circle and the idea is to keep your controller still, whilst forcing other players to move theirs. This usually ends up in a bit of a wrestle as you try to get one up on your friends. It is such a simple premise, it is silly but it is a barrel of laughs.
Super Pole Riders is probably the most complex game of the set, with players having to move a ball that is on a line to their opponents goal. They do this using a pole which is controlled with the right stick, whilst moving the character with the left stick. Players can either move the ball with the pole, or use the pole to vault their guy upwards so he can kick the ball. However, you also need to be aware of opponents who are fighting for the same ball, but can also knock you off your pole giving them a small advantage with no opponent to worry about for a moment. Again it is hectic and fun.
The final game is Hokra, which requires four players as standard. With Hokra, you have two teams of two players and the aim is to get the ball into one of your home zones and keep it there until your square fills up, the first team to fill their square wins the game. Yet the other team just need to run into you to get the ball and make off with it to their own home zone. The battles that can be had here are fantastic with some games last a fair amount of time, as you win the ball, set off, but get it stolen back, before you steal it yourself and so on.
It got to the point where players were discussing tactics, of how to get the ball and get to a zone whilst another defended trying to keep it as long as possible, the back and forth becomes tense and exciting very quickly an makes for some entertaining times even for those just watching.
One of the biggest fears we had for Sportfriends before playing, was how much anyone would get out of it, unless they had four controllers, or enough move controllers for everyone. Especially when it came to Johann Sebastian Joust. But fears were quickly quashed, when it became apparent you could use a mixture of controllers, move controllers and even the Vita to play. The Move controllers don’t even need the camera to function for any of the games, which put to rest another fear you may initially have…needing to buy a camera. It isn’t needed at all.
The ease of use of the game, the quickness to set up and play really does make this an ideal party game. It took mere seconds from booting the game to have four players on various controller types, laughing, giggling and generally having fun. And whilst initially it felt a little disappointing that there was no single player option, it does make sense, this isn’t the sort of game that you can enjoy on your own. Even if it used bots as opponents, there is no better fun than owning your friends and family. It is a game that knows its strengths and plays to them perfectly.
There is great value too, because if you buy it on the PS3, you get the PS4 version free as part of a cross-buy promotion, which can be ideal if you are visiting a friends house and they only have the other system to what you may have. The PS3 version unfortunately doesn’t support the Vita, but that is a minor issue and not one that can be blamed on the developers anyway.
Sportsfriends isn’t a game that you will play every day, it isn’t a game that is for a lone gamer, it is purely for getting out when friends are over, at parties, when the whole family is at home, those sorts of occasions. It may only be played a handful of times a year, but we can guarantee you, that those handful of times, will be wondrous and full of great memories.