Chandler: Sportsfriends is a love letter to the zany retro sports games that were played via local multiplayer on consoles in days long past. So we’ll get this out of the way: our review is not going to score the game based on the fact that there is no way to play this solo. If you have no one else to play this game locally with, don’t even bother with the game. Sportsfriends is a game, or collection of games rather, that you should go into knowing that you are going to have the most fun with a group of two or more people, with four being the optimal number. In the spirit of Sportfriends couch multiplayer focus, D’yani and I sat down together to do a couch co-op review of the title. Let’s start with the overall package. D’yani?
D’yani: The visual design of this game is wonderfully refreshing. The menus are smooth, the graphics are smart and quirky; looking at this game makes me happy. They used a modern design that is most often used in print media. The color scheme has a retro vibe, but the font is modern. Music to my eyes! And there are really creative icon-like illustrations (icons have to summarize things visually which is tricky to accomplish) that include monkeys, but you can disable that feature if you have an aversion toward monkeys (not kidding, it’s a real option).
Chandler: Being that she’s the graphic designer in the family, I couldn’t have said it any better (in fact, I couldn’t have even said it nearly that well), and I wholeheartedly agree. Now let’s get to the games. Barabariball is the first one on the list and it plays like a simplified, retro version of Super Smash Brothers with a ball. Your team’s goal is to get the ball to fall into the water on the opposing side to gain points and to stop the other team from doing the same. The mechanics were a bit tough to get at first but the longer I played, the more fun it got as I discovered new methods of scoring.
D’yani: My mom would have fun playing this game (for reference, she sort-of kind-of could play LittleBig Planet and got confused at the “jumping and moving at the same time” part), and Chandler and I have fun playing this game. Some parts are tricky but at the same time very enjoyable and intriguing.
Chandler: Agreed, Sportsfriends overall feels like something that hardcore and casual gamers alike, or even non-gamers, can enjoy. Super Pole Riders involves players with poles that need to vault and kick a ball on a string into the other team’s goal. The physics are hilarious and take some getting used to. It was easy to pick up and start playing, but difficult to begin to master. I’m beginning to notice that being a trend with these games…
D’yani: I was in awe of the creativity of this game even more when playing Super Pole Riders. It was so simple, hilarious, and difficult! Don’t worry everyone, you can often hit the ball into your goal whether you are using the pole correctly or not. My favorite technique was squishing my opponent with my pole to not allow him to move.
Chandler: Regardless of our talent with it, we still had tons of fun, even when I was being squished. The final retro styled game is called Hokra, and unfortunately we did not get to enjoy this one fully as intended. It requires four players and while you can use the split controller method to have two people per controller, it still meant that we were each attempting to control two “players” (actually just blocks in this game). This one has another simple concept that is like a blocky version of customized hockey. Your team’s blocks must get a dot in the shape of a block into the opposite colored block team’s goals that are also blocks, and block the other team from doing the same to you. Yet another one that I could see being a blast with four players.
D’yani: Especially- maybe with alcohol.
Chandler: The level creator is another thing that makes this game great. The creations that I have already seen coming out of such a simple tool are phenomenal. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to share your creations via network, which I think would add a ton to Hokra. Shall we talk Johann Sebastian Joust now?
D’yani: We should probably cover that. This is a brilliant party game. This is also a brilliant use of the Move controller. I have been waiting for a game that uses the Move in such a creative way and shines a light into the dark and vast realm of neglected or unimagined uses for the Move.
Chandler: The idea here is that you don’t want to move the controller while trying to get your opponents to move theirs. That’s right, it’s a video game played in real life. The game may keep track of if your Move or DualShock 4 is moving, but the game is played in real life between friends, family, and whoever else you can get over to your house to joust with. Even with only D’yani and I playing, it’s a ton of fun, and it’s an excuse to push my wife… sorry dear.
D’yani: That’s rude. But I feel the same. Jousting is a great way to pop those personal bubbles at the beginning of a party due to the touching. It’s also great at the end of a party. Or the middle. Or the entire party.
Chandler: Absolutely, I can’t wait to get friends over to play with a full crew (four players on the PS4, seven on the PS3). I actually want to round up more Move controllers just to be able to support a huge PS3 game of J.S. Joust, as the PS3 also supports a custom soundtrack option that the PS4 lacks. You can also use your DualShock 3s or 4s as controllers if you don’t have enough Moves. I highly recommend entering the secret code in the options menu to expand the options available to you on either system, it makes the game a ton more fun and varied.
Problem is you have to enter this code every time you turn the game back on to access these options. Ed. Note – See correction below.
D’yani: But this game is absolutely worth the money. Especially with that secret code. Sportsfriends is one of the necessities every gamer must have in their arsenal.
Chandler: Speaking of secret codes, there are another couple of games that you can access by entering codes on the main menu of Sportsfriends, but I won’t spoil how to unlock them here. The complete Sportsfriends package suffers from very few pitfalls, with the major ones coming from the lack of online connectivity (for sharing Hokra levels) and no ability to save your previous option selection. All in all, if you’ve got the option to have two or more people in the same room with your PS3 or PS4, as my co-op buddy said, you owe it to yourself to have this title on your console.
Pro Tip: Buy it on the PS3 to gain access to both the PS3 and the PS4 versions of the game.
Correction: We incorrectly stated that the secret code and options in J. S. Joust don’t save and reset to defaults each time you restart the game. This was an error that occurred when we ended up on D’yani’s account instead of mine without realizing it. We’ve gone back and verified that options do actually save which makes hopping back in and playing with your favorite settings a breeze! Our apologies for the mix-up and thanks to Die Gute Fabrik for pointing out our mistake.
Review copy backed on Kickstarter by reviewer. Review done on PS4 version. Also available on PS3. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.