In the opening screen of “Sportsfriends,” the game prominently displays the quote, “No one on their deathbed ever said ‘I wish I had spent more time alone with my computer!’” At first, this may seem ironic, as “Sportsfriends” is technically a video game, but “Sportsfriends” has a magical ability to bring friends together in ways most games will never achieve. A collection of four different local-only four-player games, “Sportsfriends” can become the center of the party for experienced and inexperienced gamers alike.
“Johann Sebastian Joust,” the flagship game of “Sportsfriends,” reveals the genius and intimate nature of this collection of games. In “Johann Sebastian Joust,” players in the physical world protect their controller from being shaken while attempting to shake everyone else’s controller in a frenzied free-for-all. Determined using the gyroscope on either the regular DualShock controllers or the PlayStation Move controllers, if a controller is shaken, the player is out for the round; the winner is the last person standing. As the game goes on, select pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach play at various speeds. Higher speeds of music allow for more leeway in the movement of controllers and players. As ridiculous as its concept is, “Johann Sebastian Joust” is easy to pick up and master for everyone, and it’s a lot of fun for friends who are willing to roughhouse with each other quite a bit.
“Hokra” takes a different direction and is best described as a minimalist, abstracted version of soccer mixed with capture the flag. Two teams of two aim to grab a ball and keep it in their score area until they reach an allotted number of points. Utilizing only a joystick and a single button, the controls are simple yet precise, as the joystick controls movement of one’s character while the button is used for dashing or passing the ball, depending on the context. The fast pace and team elements of “Hokra” make for a game where every second is crucial and where you’ll be cheering fervently in every game, win or lose.
“Super Pole Riders,” designed by the creator of popular web game “QWOP,” combines the wackiness of “Johann Sebastian Joust” and competitiveness of “Hokra” into a game about pole vaulting and kicking a ball into a goal. A ball is placed on a zipline, and players have to kick or push the ball into the opposing team’s goal. The left stick controls the player, while the right stick controls their pole; players propel themselves in the air by vaulting. As one would expect from the developer of “QWOP,” “Super Pole Riders” is awkwardly hilarious and fun.
“BaraBariBall,” the last of the collection, is a Smash Bros.-like fighting and platforming game in which players aim to grab and throw a ball into their opponent’s water and let it sink. The slowest and most complex of the collection, it takes some time to learn and understand the mechanics and rules of the game because it isn’t as reflex-heavy as the rest of “Sportsfriends,” but “BaraBariBall” still has some intense moments nonetheless.
While the individual games of “Sportsfriends” all stand alone as incredible multiplayer games, “Sportsfriends” works well as a collection. When your friends get bored of one game, it just takes a couple of seconds to switch to the next and continue having fun.
“Sportsfriends” is a reason for buying multiple PS3 or PS4 controllers if you have a readily available group of friends available to play. While many may regret their time spent staring at a screen, few will regret their time staring at a screen while playing “Sportsfriends.”
Art Siriwatt covers video games. Contact him at [email protected].