Friday, May 25

Review: Super Sportsmatchen [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While, in general, the multiplayer Olympic event style game hasn’t been popular or very successful in quite a long time it is one of the genres that really takes me back to some great times. Both in the arcade with Track N Field (as well as HyperSports) and at home with the classic Epyx Summer Games series I played the hell out of these multi-event titles. Everyone would have their favorite events, as well as ones they’d struggle with, but in general they provided a challenging but fun bit of variety among sports titles that were often a bit more repetitive.

With that in mind seeing a title like Super Sportsmatchen, and perhaps even more vitally hearing it, really put me into a good place mentally. An early surprise is even against games of that earlier time the presentation and options are surprisingly thin, with very few countries represented with characters you can choose from. A bit odd, but it is hardly a major sticking point. Your options are to play through a set of 5 of the game’s 10 events or a marathon of all of them. You can play with up to 4 people total, whether with friends or with AI bots, and you even have an option to team up or go it solo. If playing alone I’d definitely recommend just playing through on your own initially to get a feel for everything just to save some time.

The first oddity, though this is also part of the game’s charm, is the selection of events. These include relatively straightforward and expected events like running a sprint and basketball, but then deviate into weirdness with pillow fighting and animal feeding on the other end of the spectrum. Then there are some events like rock climbing and kayak racing somewhere in the middle. In general, the way to control your athlete for each event is roughly spelled out before things begin, though certainly having any level of skill or mastery with them takes some time even if nothing is terribly complex. You’ll play through the events, get your event scores, and then see your overall ranking as you reach the end.

What struck me with some of the events are some of the design choices in terms of controls. Where simplicity has generally been a key component to success in these sorts of games, with controls anyone could likely have some success with quickly but take time to master, there are some events in the game that feel unnecessarily hard. In particular the norm of running events being a product of trying to mash a “left” and “right” button to get your speed going has a layer of complexity thrown in with you needing to alternate or you’ll stumble. Absolute accuracy in the animal feeding “shooting” event also feel a bit like overkill. It’s small things, though at least everyone is dealing with the same issues, but on top of the oddity of some of the events this does make the game a little less simply approachable from a pick-up-and-play perspective with some friends. Of course, if you’re not playing with friends this also makes the AI athletes complete bastards since they’re pretty well unimpeded by anything and will probably mop the floor with you for awhile.

The best way to play this game is with a group of friends who are all roughly starting out from the same level of familiarity. As everyone struggles with the controls equally the bar is pretty fair and the quirkiness of some of the events will no doubt get people laughing. As each person incrementally gets better at events that suit them I don’t doubt the game could continue to entertain and challenge. However, if you’re not playing with friends aside from chasing world records for their own sake playing against the AI probably won’t feel very rewarding since in some events the lack of being encumbered by physical controls is very clear. Somewhat similarly, if you’ve got some time under your belt and start to play it with friends who are new to the game you’ll likely have a pretty unfair advantage for a while because of the nuances and quirks with the control in some events. I love the game’s spirit but the implementation in key areas makes it tricky to recommend without caveats.

Score: 6

  • 10 very different events to play through
  • A mix of both traditional and unusual events
  • Wonderfully retro graphics and sound bring nostalgic vibes

  • Overly-complicated or precise controls for some events diminish the ease of pick-up-and-play for people who haven’t played it yet
  • The AI will likely stomp you while you struggle with the controls for awhile
  • Ideally played with a group of equally-experienced friends or it will likely end up lopsided quickly