The time is 8pm, a quiet Friday night with my flat as we sit in the lounge chilling with our devices out. Fortnite’s on the tv as we go death for death. Is this what couch co-op has come to? One person playing as the rest inattentively watch, while also scrolling through Facebook? I’m no better. Pokémon Quest lights up the portable screen on my Switch. My new addiction, but an addiction only I can enjoy. I’ve run out of energy. Damn. I switch to BOTW. Damn, again only engaging myself. Is this really the full potential of a console purposefully designed for co-op gameplay. Fuck it. I fire up Super SPORTMATCHEN. Everyone grabs a controller. This is it. Party games are the answer. They go together with the switch like EA and Loot crates, the perfect genre for a console built around simple, multiplayer fun.
Super SPORTMATCHEN is a party game that focuses on short, sharp, retro-style arcade mini-games. It thrusts you into a sporting competition against three other players, competing in a variety of 10 different sports. Each sport is simple enough to grasp but difficult enough to completely embarrass any players picking up the game for the first time. So as somebody who just picked up the game, I got smashed, like, destroyed to the point I had to put down my switch. But game after game, my score slowly rose, and soon after, so did my placing as my character climbed from the crying 4th place position to a medal holding 3rd… hey its still something at least.
This game is a breath of old school fresh air for a genre that is sadly dying out, when it could so easily be thriving with a console like the Switch. As I stated earlier, I believe this genre is the perfect match for this console and should be more of a priority for indie game developers especially. For purely that reason I give Kaj Forell Video Game Brand a slow clap for being one of the first to do this at a competent level for a competitively low price, because party games don’t have to cost 100 odd dollars. Though with that said, Super SPORTMATCHEN is not perfect, it has its fair share of drawbacks but when I see a glass I see a half full glass of Mountain Dew so I’m an optimistic guy, with Type 2 diabetes. I’m going to start off with the positives and then get to critiques that I suppose I have to do as a so called “video game reviewer”.
Turning the game on you are straight away blown away by the retro pixel art graphics that take you straight back to arcade era of sports games. It drowned me in classical nostalgia and though there seems to be a trend to make every game nostalgic, Super SPORTMATCHEN doesn’t seem to be following trends for an easy buck. Rather, they are complimenting simple gameplay with simple graphics to keep all aspects of the game fitting. Though I said the graphics were simple, it does not make them bland. Vibrant colours capture the eye and nearly every level has a unique colour pallet, holding your gaze while giving each sport an extra level of unique charm.
This game doesn’t have to try to hard to make you think their 10 varying sports are unique. Nearly each one uses the minimal controls in a creative and interesting way to keep gameplay fresh throughout as you quickly jump between courses. Whether it be rotating the analog stick quickly to throw a cute little puppy in a shot-put style game, quickly hitting different combos of buttons to leap up a climbing wall or using 3 different buttons (attack, counter, fake) in a pillow fight mini game. It’s this simple but necessary difference that goes a long way to making nearly every one of Super SPORTMATCHEN’s games fresh and enjoyable. There were only two games that I found similar and sadly they were both my least favourite games so I couldn’t even enjoy them. These similar sports were the 100m dash which involved pressing two buttons repeatedly in order to move and the 250m Plint Sprint which is just longer than the 100m sprint with the added difficulty of jumping occasionally. The other 8 games were both interesting and unique, the only problem is that there is only 8… I really wish there were more because after two play-throughs you’ve played them all and they aren’t so deep that you need to replay them again and again to learn the mechanics.
The good thing is that the sports in this game are difficult enough to force you to play them a few times in order to improve. When I started out I got 4th in nearly every course so when I eventually got the hang of It and won my first sport, saying I was excited would be an understatement. I like this difficulty, to me party games are the greatest when they are difficult. It makes it amusing to play as you and your friends scramble to see who isn’t the worst. It also gives the host mad bragging rights as they shit on all of their friends. This difficulty is only heightened by the fact that the AI in this game is extremely f*cking good. They aren’t bots that make 0 mistakes but they are so close that its going to take you a few tries before you beat one. When you do defeat them it feels good but not amazing, because weirdly the AI seem to have two difficulties, Pro & complete noob. This is generally what you want in games but due to the fact that there is no option to select the difficulty, its quite bizarre. It does make them feel oddly human though as you never know what their skills are going to be. I just wish they weren’t impossibly difficult when they are hard, like when I was racing AI in the kayak race in which you have to switch lanes to dodge obstacles. I beat one which must have been on a lower difficulty but then after a few more meters I ended up crashing. The game doesn’t stop when you die though and so I had to sit and watch as they nearly quadrupled my score, dodging objects I couldn’t even see fly by the screen. I know I’m not good at this game but with AI this crazy it seems I could never be good enough.
But if I can’t beat the AI, can I beat other players via online play? Welllll sort of? You can’t directly verse other players but that’s understandable for a small indie game. What they did to substitute this is they added an online leaderboard where you can compete with players all around the world for the best score in each sport. This is a nice touch and gives players some sort of interaction with other players but I just wish they had of implemented some kind of daily leaderboard as the high scores on the leaderboard are about as impossible to beat as the AI. Super SPORTMATCHEN seems to be more focused on the couch gaming audience and though that’s a fine target, I don’t always have friends around so I wish there was a little more player vs player content without sending out invitations to my friends.
To wrap it all up, Super SPORTMATCHEN is a humorously difficult game, with beautiful charm and a light hearted feel to it. It may not be perfect but its definitely not a game to overlook in Switch’s small catalogue of games. As a fan of Party games I would definitely recommend picking this game up if it was ever on sale but until it gets more mini games I can’t say its worth the full price. That being said I can’t wait till the next time I have friends over to return to Super SPORTMATCHEN just to embarrass all of them.