Review: Sportsfriends (PS3/PS4)

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Title: Sportsfriends
Format: PlayStation Network Download
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Die Gute Fabrik
Developer: Die Gute Fabrik
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Extras: PlayStation Move Compatible
Sportsfriends is also available on Steam. It is a Cross-Buy title.
The PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 download versions were used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Sportsfriends has a very cool story of how it came to life as a collection of four mini-games.  Like most Indie games nowadays Die Gute Fabrik went to Kickstarter for their funding. They were originally only thinking of doing it for PC, Mac and Linux but with the help of Nick Sutner and his team they were able to get Sony on board with them to bring Sportsfriends to the PlayStation family. As of the writing of this review, it is the only Sony endorsed Kickstarter.

Being the first review I have done for PSNation.com this wasn’t an easy game to review. Why, because this is the first video game that I have played that has a mini game in it where you don’t need the TV to play the game at all. Then there are 2-4 player party games on it that had my family laughing for hours while playing the game.

Sportsfriends does a lot of things different then any other game I have ever played. One of those things is called “shared controller”. You can play some of the game with four players and two controllers!

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Gameplay:
Johann Sebastian Joust
I feel that this game is the reason you should buy Sportsfriends. This is the game that my family had the most fun with and we were laughing and having a great time right from the beginning. There is very little learning curve to be able to pick up this game. You don’t even need to use the TV screen! Each player has either the DualShock 4, DualShock 3 or PlayStation Move controller in their hand and the goal is to hold your controller still while other players try to make your controller move.

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You do not need to have the PlayStation Eye or PlayStation Camera plugged into you PS3 or PS4 for the the PlayStation Move functions to work.  The DualShock 4 also has Move functionality built in but your Move controllers will work with your PS4 so you have a choice there. Keep in mind that the PlayStation 3 can support up to seven controllers while the PlayStation 4 will support a maximum four controllers.

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Super Pole Riders
This is a 1v1 or 2v2 game where a ball is suspended in the air hanging on a line running from goal to goal. This is one of the games that supports the shared controller mode. The shared controller mode is a great alternative to not having enough DualShock 3 or DualShock 4 controllers but it can feel a little crowded with two sets of hands on one controller. I do feel this is something you could get used to doing since this is the first game that I can recall has this feature.

Your job as a pole rider is to use your pole to help you knock the ball into your opponents goal. Using the left analog to control the player and the right analog stick to control the pole. You can use the pole to push the ball on the line or vault yourself forward and try to kick the ball towards your goal.

The arena you select will also factor into how you play the game. Some courses have lower points where you can reach the ball with your pole. You will have to vault yourself upwards and time it well enough to be able to kick the ball. It is also very easy to knock the ball in the wrong direction. There is a ton of strategy and depth to this game between being able to balance yourself on the pole to defend you goal or continue kicking the ball until you score. The other variable is being able to kill you opponent for about three seconds after which they respawn back by their goal. To do this you have to be the higher player on the poles when the two players collide.

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Hokra
2v2 is the only way to play this game and it’s very hard to describe. It’s sort of a mix between Pong and Air Hockey. Each player controls a square that has the ability to grab and pass the puck around the screen. The goal is to get the puck into your colored section. As the puck sits in the colored section the timer ticks down and once the puck leaves the colored area the timer stops. The only way to know how close you are to winning the match is to see the colored boxes get filled in with a darker color.  You can pass the puck around to your teammate or bounce it off the screen edges to keep it away from the other team. When not controlling the puck you can hit X (or Down if using Shared Controller mode) to dash and bump into the opposing player’s square. Again arena layout plays a factor into how you play.

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BaraBariBall
This is a 1v1 or 2v2 fighting style aerial game. The goal is to sink your ball into your goal with each goal being below a water line at the bottom of the arena. You can also lose points by falling below the water line. Each player has eight jumps that do regenerate over time but if you use all your jumps you are left in a very vulnerable state.

You can select between three kinds of players: simple and flexible, heavy and tough or swift and precise. Then you’ll pick one of two technique moves to use against your opponents. These techniques are what you use as attacks to get the ball away from you opponent. Once close to your opponent, you simply press Square and hope your timing is right to knock the opponent down or steal the ball.

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Visuals:
I hate to use the term “retro style” graphics but I’m not really sure what else to call it, maybe “8-bit” style. However the graphics fit the game perfectly. They are very colorful and vibrant. There’s never any slow down or spots where the game needs to catch up to itself. It always runs great, even with all the crazy stuff going on around the screen.

Audio:
There is very basic music in this game. It’s nothing fancy but that is a great thing. While moving around in the menu there is this basic catchy tune that plays. While playing Joust there is Classical Orchestra music playing that goes slower and faster based on whether someone’s controller is almost to the point of being unstable. The sound effects fit the gameplay perfectly.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is local multiplayer only.

Conclusion:
Sportsfriends is a game that had me intrigued from the first time I heard about people playing with the Move Controller and no screen. Now the other three mini-games are just the icing on the cake.

This is one of those games where you will be playing with your friends and someone will pull off some kind of move or strategy that pays off well, leaving everyone else thinking “How did he do that?”.  J.S. Joust is the best game of the four and there really is no learning curve. The other three games are also an enormous amount of fun in short-term play sessions.

I can see my family and friends having a gathering in my backyard, getting the Move Controllers out and having a blast using the entire backyard as our arena.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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