Review: Sportsfriends

The initial Kickstarter pitch video made Sportsfriends seem like a game that just wanted everyone who played it to have a good time. Sure enough, it is!  My house has three people in it – myself, a grandmother, and her grandson. Each and every one of us loved this game for different reasons, leaving us with at least a few memories. It’s been nearly six months since the PS4’s launch, and in that time, my PS camera has been used for maybe one hour. Now, Sportsfriends makes that device seem like a must-have.

It’s by far the best game to use the thing, and has some benefits over PS3-only users. The biggest one is that DualShock 4 pads can be used instead of PS Move controllers – so it gives you a bit more flexibility with your control schemes. You don’t need to worry about having some PS Move pads lying around, and since they’re not quite bargain bin fodder yet, just grabbing them can be a bit expensive, and hard to justify for just one game. However, PS4 owners are a bit more likely to have at least one Move lying around, and this lets you get at least some use out of it once you dust it off and recharge it. Honestly, who’s actually used the thing expect for when HOTD: Overkill went on a PSN super-sale?


Barbariball is the first mode offered up and can best be described as a platforming version of soccer with water. It’s a one-on-one or two-on-two game with each side using a particular color. If you’re the yellow character, you want to grab the ball and put it in the yellow side of the water, while purple will want to do the same for its color. The player’s character is essentially acting as a goalie and you can do whatever you need to get the ball on your side. There are numerous character types to choose from with your powerhouse type, average type, and speedster. Jumping is a big part of the game, and you’ll need to be mindful of it because you only have a limited amount of jumps before you need to refill the supply of tiny spheres around your character that indicate how many jumps you can do.

If you burn through 90% of your jumps to get the ball, then you wind up risking that you’ll end up drowning on the last jump and giving your rival a chance to grab the ball. If he does, you can be revived in time, but it’ll be tough. Another big thing is that you can save the ball from the water as long as it’s visible on-screen. If it’s to the point where an arrow is at the bottom of the screen, you’ll lose a point – but if it’s just hit the water, jump in and go for a recovery. Points are gained for successful scores, and lost for having your character drown. You can also feign drowning to lure an enemy into a false sense of security, then hop out quickly to win. This is a super-competitive game and a lot of fun to play.

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Johan Sebastian Joust is the simplest game to describe, but the hardest to explain just why it’s so darned fun! This music-heavy mode gives you a ton of options, largely revolving around the voice work. You get a pleasant voice listing the name and the winner no matter what, but just having options for something so minor is amusing. The core game involves everyone grabbing a Move controller, or a combination of Moves and Dual Shock 4 pads on the PS4 and standing in a semi-circle. The goal is to move the device slowly when the song is slow, and then speed up a tad when it speeds up. However, since this is tied to the movement of the controller, someone can screw with you and move your hand swiftly to cause you to lose! Laughter, light-hearted yelling, and perhaps a swear or two will be common during extended play sessions. Sure, it sucks to lose in any game – but it’s really hard to get angry about losing here. You’re controlling a slightly-animated character playing a musical instrument, and the colors are so bright and the music is so relaxing that you can’t get mad. It’s a blast! This is one of those experiences you just have to try for yourself, because words can’t do it justice.

Super Pole Riders may have a title that seems slightly lewd, but the actual game isn’t! Here, each player starts on one side with a ball in the center and a target at each end. Your goal is to get the ball to hit your target however you need to. You can use the pole vault itself to nudge it, or vault high and hopefully kick it to move it a lot. This requires a lot of precision though, and missing has a huge penalty. It takes a while to reset and get back into position – giving your opponent a chance to gain the upper hand. The Joust name might’ve been better here since like Joust (and Balloon Fight), you can get squashed by someone above you. Here, you just wait to respawn, but that little mechanic makes things very interesting – and funny when you walk on the pole vault to squash them. There’s a fantastic sudden death mode where your pole vaults turn into gigantic hammers and the first person to either get a kill or a point wins. This is probably the most addictive mode to play one on one, as it lacks the cheapness of Barbariball, and has the added comedy of you sometimes helping your opponent out by using your own pole vault against yourself accidentally.

Visually, Sportsfriends goes for a pixelart look most of the time, and it works well. Despite the aged look, the bright colors ensure that it is still a stunning game to behold — with silky-smooth animation throughout. Even JH Joust has that, which you’ll notice only in videos because it’s impossible to really pay attention to the game and that at the same time. The music goes for a similarly retro vibe, and works a bit less well. The chiptune soundtrack is fun to listen to in the game, but isn’t something I’d want to hear outside of it. Still, it’s a lot of fun to hear in the game and since it helps add excitement to a game with that as the most important element, it’s hard to call it bad.


Closing Comments:

Sportsfriends is the most-fun party game I’ve played since the days of the original Mario Party. It mixes the competitiveness of real sports with video game conventions and is the absolute best reason to own a PS camera on the PS4. PS3 owners will be glad to finally get some use out of their Move controllers, although the PS4 version is recommended due to it using both the Move and DualShock 4. If you’re in the mood to have a lot of fun with friends and have an appreciation for retro stylings, definitely pick this up. At $15, you’ll get a lot of use out of it from folks you’d expect to — and definitely some people who will want to join in after seeing all the fun you’re having with it.
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4