Sportsfriends review: a party waiting to happen

By Robert Workman, May 26, 2014 9:00am PDT

The party game serves an essential purpose: providing entertainment for multiple people on any given afternoon, evening, weekend… what-have-you. It's always good to get a few folks together to blast them to bits in Bomberman, lap them in Mario Kart 8, or out-fox them in You Don't Know Jack. There's always room for a good party game. And now we have another one with the oft-delayed, but finally released, Sportsfriends.

It would be enough if this compilation included just one of its advertised games. Instead, it comes jam-packed with four, with something that's ideal for everyone's gaming tastes. Whether you feel like having a purpose waving around PlayStation Move controllers or beating someone senseless to get a ball sink in the water, there's something that will fit your party mood.

The first of the four games in the package is Hokra, which actually requires four players – there's no way around that. It's a Combat-esque battle game where players kick around micro-sized soccer balls at goals that are located in the corners of the screen. Rival players are encouraged to intercept these and score the goals for themselves. It's the sort of game you would've seen on an Atari 2600 had a developer been privy enough to make it for the system at the time. Still, get a good session going, and it can be quite a bit of fun.

Next up is Super Pole Riders, and this may be the quirkiest game of the bunch. In this game, you'll guide a player with a rather oblong stick across a small enclosed arena, attempting to push a ball on a wire (or on the ground) into a nearby goal. Since the game is designed for two players, competitiveness plays a big part here, as you'll wackily battle back and forth to keep the ball in play and away from the goal. It's silly, and a bit frustrating for the uninitiated, but if you're looking for a unique two-player experience, this should be your first stop.

Those interested in a sports-style experience (the name does include the word Sports, after all) will want to check out BariBariBall. This four player jam session has you attempting to get balls into water-based goals that appear on the bottom of the screen. Set up in a two-vs.-two fashion, your job is to score goals while keeping the ball from entering your opponent's goal. This one can be played with anywhere from two to four people, but, honestly, a quartet is the way to go here, as it's ridiculously fun scrambling about and hitting people upside the head to prevent a goal.

Finally, there's Johann Sebastian Joust. This game doesn't use the television screen at all, and instead utilizes four PlayStation Move controllers (or DualShock 4 controllers, though they don't work as effectively due to their oblong design) in a game of cat-and-mouse. You perform movements in some cases, depending on the music that's playing, to try and throw off other players. You'll take turns doing this, so someone doesn't have an entirely unfair advantage when it comes to making other players move. This one is ridiculously entertaining, and probably the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, it's likely to be the most pricey, as you need to have a separate Move or PS4 controller for each individual player.

The biggest downside with Sportsfriends is that there are no options to play it solo. The developer didn't bother with including the ability to play against AI opponents to get some practice in. Nope, you're immediately thrown into competition. Maybe it's better that way, as playing something along the lines of Johann Sebastian Joust is likely to get old if you're doing it on your own.

If you're one of those people who lives to party (and honestly, who doesn't?!), Sportsfriends deserves an immediate addition to your game library. It comes with four unique competitive experiences that are worth checking out, even if some are better than others, and the presentation and gameplay each one presents is truly inventive--and a far cry from what you've come to expect with NBA Jam. Dig in, and don't forget your friends.

Rating: 8 out of 10

This review is based on a downloadable PlayStation 4 code provided by the publisher. Sportsfriends is available now for download on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. It is rated E for everyone.

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