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Review: Super Beat Sports

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Rhythm purgatory

Beat Sports came and went with few people even having a chance to play it. When it released, it was considered one of the better games on Apple TV, a platform that isn't exactly famous for its games.

The Nintendo Switch is giving the rhythm party game another chance at an audience, but with that comes a cost: on a much more popular platform, it will be compared to its wealth of excellent titles. It's a matchup that leaves Super Beat Sports a little less rosy.

Super Beat Sports (Switch)
Developer: Harmonix Music Systems, Inc.
Publisher: Harmonix
Released: November 2, 2017
MSRP: $14.99

Super Beat Sports has five modes (one more than the original), and all are based on the premise that there's an alien civilization where everything is musical and said aliens intercepted transmissions of human sports contests. These extraterrestrials try to mimic the sports, but do so without knowing the actual rules, so what they end up with is a bunch of rhythm-based games that have players hitting a ball with a stick.

WhackyBat is the Muzicalian take on baseball, and it ends up being a sort of call-and-response game. Aliens in one of three lanes will throw balls with a certain rhythm, and players have to hit them back to the beat. Different species will pitch at different speeds, with some throwing long lobs that leave the screen and connect a four measures away and others slamming fastballs down the middle that need to be hit just a quarter note after they're thrown.

GobbleGolf is a rhythm memory game, with aliens in one of three sectors chiming it across an entire measure before players have to reproduce that measure by knocking balls into the aliens' mouths. Once one has been hit at the right time, it retreats into a hole and puts up a flag, just like in real golf.

NetBall plays like volleyball, but with rackets like tennis. Of the three more single player-focused games, it's the most reactive. Where the other two are about mimicking timing, Net Ball has the ball pinging back and forth between player and alien, and often between alien and alien before setting up the human on the court for a smash. The setup makes for the most dynamic music, since it isn't constrained to having the player repeat exactly what the aliens do.

The two remaining games are more party-focused, supporting up to four players, but they can also be played in single player mode. The first of these is BuddyBall, which looks a bit like WhackBat, but with a lot of the waiting removed. Players hit the ball to one of three alien targets, and depending on what type of alien it is, it will send it back to the next player in line at a particular speed. Miss a shot three times and you're out, last player standing wins.

The last game is the new addition from the original Beat Sports, and it's probably the most complex. It's the Muzicalian riff on hockey and it plays like a game of Pong on ecstasy. Defend the goal like a normal game and you'll only bunt the ball away, making for an easy return, but hit it back on the beat and it'll go careening across the court and allow control of the neutral alien midfielders. Of all the minigames, this is the one with the highest skill ceiling. It's difficult to focus both on where the ball is going to end up and when to hit on the beat, almost as if they take two separate brain functions that each need full attention.

All of these games are wrapped up in a cute Mii-like aesthetic. Playing the first three games grants progress toward cosmetic customization options for the character. I hit balls using a garden gnome, because I can.

One of the problems Super Beat Sports has is its lack of variety. Each game mode is fine to play in bite-sized form, but none feel like they warrant the many levels and songs they're given. It seems like the package as a whole would have benefited from greater breadth and perhaps less depth.

Related to that, the biggest downfall of Super Beat Sports is that none of its music is particularly memorable. It has a groovy electronic style to it, but after a while all the songs start to sound the same, complete with the alien "oohs" and "ahs." To take a genre classic in comparison, the original PaRappa the Rapper had only six songs, but they were all so different in style (and I can still recite most of them from memory, 20 years later). It's been less than 12 hours since I last played Super Beat Sports, and I couldn't even hum a tune from it.

I want to stress that Super Beat Sports isn't a bad game. It's well crafted, and it's nice to take a few minutes to play a song before going off and doing something entirely different. Rhythm game diehards can sink a lot of time into going for perfect (or near perfect, which is all the platinum medals require) on all of the different songs.

But this isn't the mainstream must-play like Harmonix has had in its history. Heck, it isn't even a must-play for people who like quirky little rhythm games, because others have done it better in the past.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Super Beat Sports reviewed by Darren Nakamura

5

MEDIOCRE

An exercise in apathy, neither solid nor liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.
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Darren Nakamura
Darren NakamuraAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strateg... more + disclosures


 



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