Format(s): Nintendo Switch
Whilst Harmonix were originally known for being pioneers of the ‘plastic instrument days’ of rhythm games on console, they’ve now moved back to simpler releases that can be played with a traditional controller. Their most recent example of this is the Nintendo Switch rhythm title Super Beat Sports – a re-vamped release of their iOS title Beat Sports.
Super Beat Sports sees you playing five different sports-themed mini-games in which you partake in the action by sticking to the beat of a song. This might be when you’re smashing at a baseball in ‘Whacky Bat’, hitting golf balls into aliens’ mouths in ‘Gobble Golf’, or even when you’re facing off against friends in ‘Buddy Ball’ – you’ll be literally ‘playing’ to a tune throughout them all. You can either face off against AI opponents or play against up to four friends, so there’s plenty on offer for both a night alone or if you’ve got a good group of people together.
Whilst the five games are clearly inspired by different sports though, it’s probably worth pointing out that none of them feel like a traditional sports game. You’re simply mashing buttons at specific times throughout, with the star of the show typically being the musical elements. It doesn’t stop the game being fun or any less competitive though, but I figured it’d be worth mentioning for any sports fanatics who might’ve got the wrong idea.
‘Whacky Bat’ sees you hitting a plethora of balls that the aliens are throwing towards you across different lanes. Whilst this initially takes place over three lanes, the tougher difficulties eventually see you moving up to five. It’s all very simple to begin with and during the earlier levels you could easily judge when you need to hit the ball by simply looking at it, though the quicker pace of the later levels demand you pay close attention to the beat of the music too.
‘Net Ball’ is quite similar to whacky bat, though it’s a lot easier since you’re stationary throughout. It plays just like volley ball, with each game featuring two-on-two action where competitors hit the ball towards each other until someone is eventually able to smash it down to score a point. I actually found Net Ball to be the most underwhelming game in the package; there was very little challenge, even in the later stages, with the simplistic nature of the game just requiring you to press a button with minimal thought.
‘Gobble Golf’ also lacks a real sense of challenge but managed to feel a bit more fun, with the player having to pay close attention to a selection of aliens in front of them and time some golf swings so that you launch the ball straight into their mouths. It’s utterly bizarre, but I actually found it quite relaxing to play and enjoyed having to pay close attention to the aliens’ mouth movements as opposed to just listening to the beat of the music. As more aliens are introduced in the later levels it can be a bit more challenging, but it’ll never really be pushing your skills to the limit.
‘Buddy Ball’ feels a lot more competitive than the other sports included in the game and focuses more on your reaction speeds as opposed to following a simple tune. It’s a showdown for up to four players that sees everyone smashing a ball at some aliens in front of them, but the aliens actually launch the ball straight back at the other players – it’s kind of like squash, except instead of hitting a wall you’ve got an inter-dimensional being, which is nice.
It’s all spiced up thanks to the fact that there are a few different powers introduced that can affect the ball in different ways, be it by sending a bomb at different players or even speeding things up to really put you on your toes. It’s a lot of fun though and one of the most enjoyable mini-games included in the package, especially when you’ve got four different people playing.
Last but most certainly not least is ‘Rhythm Racket’ – my personal favourite of all the mini-games included. Like Buddy Ball, Rhythm Racket allows up to four players to face off against each other in competitive action. It’s basically a mixture of Pong and Arkanoid, with the aim of the game being to launch the ball in the others player’s nets and protecting your own. You can smash the ball in a couple of different ways, whilst you’ve also got full control of where you’re aiming too meaning you can be creative and use the environment to try and trick your opponents with bouncing shots.
What I liked about Rhythm Racket is that it focused less on pressing just one button in time with the music and actually offered free-flowing gameplay. Super Beat Sports often felt limited by its simplicity, so when you’ve actually got the freedom to shoot the ball around how you please there was a lot more unpredictability to be found. It’s a lot of fun and is easily the game I’ve found myself playing the most, especially when I had a few friends together.
Whilst all of the games offer something a little different from a gameplay perspective, they do mostly just boil down to just pressing a button at a specific time. Of course, it does become more challenging as you progress through to the harder levels, but there’s certainly an air of simplicity to Super Beat Sports that might leave some gamers feeling a little bored.
As you complete the different levels of each mini-game, you’ll slowly unlock a variety of different costumes and equipment to use with your character. This isn’t just your traditional sporting gear though, but rather a wide variety of bizarre equipment that you typically wouldn’t find on the playing field – I never thought that using a guitar or a huge fish as a golf club would be effective, but Super Beat Sports proved me wrong.
One thing that deserves a mention is just how pretty Super Beat Sports looks, with the vibrant worlds and all of the aliens looking fantastic both in the Switch’s handheld mode and also when docked. Everything looks consistently sharp and runs perfectly, which is pretty much essential in a video game that relies so heavily on player reactions. Either way, it’s a pretty little game and the charming visuals worked well with the overall vibe of the game.
Super Beat Sports is a pleasantly enjoyable little selection of rhythm-based sports mini-games, although the simple nature of the gameplay may not be for everyone. It’s not that the game isn’t fun, but rather that it’s lacking the challenge to keep players hooked in for the long term.
That being said, it’s a blast to play with friends and I’ve definitely lost plenty of hours in ‘Rhythm Racket’, so there’s certainly plenty on offer here if you’ve got a group of people together. Just don’t expect to have the same amount of fun if you’re playing on your own…