When gamers hear the word “sports,” they tend to let out a little groan. A fair amount of the disdain of these physical contests comes from the sentiment that they’re “boring,” and the marriage of sports and the medium of video gaming has been patchy at best. Some sports games, however, like to spice things up by adding in a special ingredient, and in the case of Super Beat Sports, it’s the universal language itself, music. Super Beat Sports by Harmonix Music Systems is a rhythm party game exclusive to the Nintendo Switch that promises colorful charm and addictive mechanics. If you are a fan of the rhythm game genre and its consistently frenetic gameplay, chances are that you’ll want to pick this up.
The premise boils down to this: you are an anonymous chibi figure resembling a Mii, who is invited to an alien planet to partake in a number of sporting contests that its extraterrestrial inhabitants have devised. The catch is that the aliens are a music-loving bunch, so the “sports” turn out to be a plethora of rhythm-based mini games that have players whack a ball with a stick in time with the music. This narrative context, while ultimately inconsequential, serves as an amusing little backdrop for the several game modes in store. The aliens are designed in an adorable, cartoony fashion, and their wacky flavor text make them a joy to interact with. Other delightful touches include the fact that your chibi character will clap and cheer for rivals when they win, creating that friendly mood that will no doubt put a smile on your face.
One of the game’s main selling points is arguably its instant accessibility due to its remarkably rudimentary control scheme. It’s largely identical across all five game modes and it mostly comes down to reflexes and clicking “A” at the right moment. Whacky Bat is the first game mode listed on the main menu and serves as a suitable introduction to the game’s core mechanics. Essentially, there are three lanes, and aliens will drop down in one of each to throw balls at you at the beat of a song for you to hit back. Different species will throw at different speeds, so you’ll have to be on your toes constantly, especially in the later levels in which combos can turn out pretty complex.
Net Ball in comparison is where things get a little more hectic, and will definitely test your reflexes to the max. Similar to volleyball, the group of aliens you are pitted against can ping the ball among themselves before eventually pouncing by setting one another up for a smash on the human player. The overall gameplay is more frenetic and twitchy, and allows for more dynamic, varied music tracks to be used. On the other hand, Gobble Golf is similar in gameplay to Simon Says and is perhaps the most uninspired of the five game modes. Aliens in one of the three lanes will chime an entire musical phrase and the goal is to simply replicate it through whacking balls into the aliens’ mouths. The less errors you make in reproducing the pattern, the more points you gain. This mode doesn’t really possess the same kinetic energy as the others as it relies on pretty basic tunes, so my personal playing experience of it was short-lived.
The remaining two game modes offer support up to four players, and are more party-focused. Buddy Ball is a sort of knockout competition in which players take turns to whack a ball towards an alien of their desire, and depending on which species of alien it is, the alien will send the ball back to the next player in line at a specific speed. If you miss a beat you’re out, and the game continues until there is one player left standing, who is then crowned musical sporting champion. It’s especially intense when there are just two players left and the beat patterns get more convoluted as the players constantly try to outsmart each other. Rhythm Racket is the last game mode featured and it is perhaps the most elaborate and frantic of them all. It plays like a match of Pong in which the arena is constantly morphing and you have to control not only your own human player, but neutral alien midfielders as well. Playing with four players is recommended, as each whack of the ball will generate a note that contributes to an overall song. Seeing in the end which kind of song you and you friends come up with is absolute fun.
For such a music-based game however, the overall soundtrack is a bit of a let-down. Most of the tracks are of a groovy electronic style, and while they’re serviceable, none are particularly memorable or noteworthy. All the best musical tracks actually are those made with a group of friends as you play frenzied volley in Rhythm Racket. Super Beat Sports is far from a bad game, however. Hardcore fans of the rhythm game genre can look forward to trying to unlock all the achievements and medals for all the songs, while those of the more casual nature can enjoy a good, old-fashioned party game buoyed by its wealth of local multiplayer options. Sports have never been this charming.
Here is the Super Beat Sports Launch Trailer:
Super Beat Sports is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. For more information, visit http://www.superbeatsports.com