About 10 years ago I started building my own arcade machine, a large thrust of doing this was down to a summer where I became obsessed with Track and Field. My friends and I played hundreds of games of the retro Olympic events where everything was achieved with button mashing and an ungodly amount of luck with timing of button presses. I’ve tried other party sports games since then but none have come close to recapturing the fun of that summer with Track and Field, until now and the perfect for Nintendo Switch game, Super Sportmatchen.
Much in the same way as Behold the Kickmen was a game created by Dan Marshall where someone who didn’t know the rules to football created a twisted version of what we expect, Super Sportmatchen doesn’t do anything normally. Whether it’s the buttons required or the event itself, nothing is how it should be and the game is all the better for it. In a modern take on 8bit style the pixel art sports event sees you take on up to 5 events, out of an unfortunately small roster of 10, and assigns points for victory culminating in a final score board for podium places. 1 to 4 players or AI can take on these events and with most of the events being short sharp bursts there is a real potential for this to be a great time sink for group party play.
High points across the events include a fascinating sumo, fencing, tug of war mash up event with pillows. An NBA Jam style basketball game where all players are on the court at once shooting into one hoop and everyone can shove each other or bounce of each other’s heads for greater height. A Hammer Throw event where you’re spinning around and whipping a Capybara 300m and hopefully getting it to deploy its’ parachute before a very heavy meeting with the ground below. A ball toss game cross with shove penny where the ground is divided into scores and bouncing off a back wall first will double your score, every time a round is finished a weasel runs onto the court to take away the ball. What I’m getting at is nothing is as you would expect in this game, with the exception of the 100m sprint which almost feels out of place in its normality by comparison to the rest of the events.
At the start of each event you’re told the buttons, but not the actual rules of the event. I appreciate a super quick and easy guide before each event type but on a player’s first run through of the events there is a large amount that have basic rules or concepts that are not explained at all for new players. I found myself giving a quick rundown of each event before starting to each player I was with, just to make sure we were on a relatively even playing field. My first time playing the bounce a ball off the back wall game I assumed I was trying to whip the little red thing as far as I could so went for a perfect full power and 45 degree toss, I hit a UFO so I guess that’s something at least.
Super Sportmatchen has the audio to match the visuals, it’s all very chip tuney and scratchy as you assume a hundred filters would do to audio and when combined with the visual style you kind of get to a place where you could easily confuse this for the games of old that it’s emulating, apart from it has a much nicer frame rate. The silliness of it all is a real selling point in Super Sportmatchen, its easy to just straight compare this to Track and Field, but with the animals coming on at half time during basketball to dance with pom poms or to replace the clay pigeons in the shooting game, instead allowing you to throw fruit into a flying capybara’s mouth, it just makes for a fun atmosphere as you play.
The game isn’t without it’s flaws though, the great fun of a team tournament (2 humans against 2 AI) was somewhat tarnished by one of the AI matching our skill level wonderfully and the other being a Deep Thought level of AI where it perfected every single event with the reactions of, well, a computer. There’s a canoe event where your boat goes down your track, within which are 3 lanes you can utilise, obstructions come at you thick and fast and the player must jump between lanes to avoid all obstacles. Humans in my experience can expect to get normally around 300-400m before the speed gets a bit much. Good players a bit further, our AI opponent got 1600m. Not only were we beaten to a stupid degree we also were forced to sit and watch this AI monster just flick between lanes insanely fast like he’d imbibed all the sugar and caffeine in the planet in one go.
Issues like that are few and far between and really adding AI is not essential to the experience. Single player is what it is, basically a glorified training space for you to work out the rules and nuance of each event. What this game feels like it was made for however is multiplayer. Get some friends round and add this into your rotation of other games like Gangbeasts, Jackbox and Buzz if you’re feeling retro. Local multiplayer is hit and miss these days with the games being a dime a dozen on Steam, Super Sportmatchen stands out from the crowd as something that’s not only well presented but also fun to play. I wish there was more than 10 events as a couple of them feel quite similar to each other, but for what the package is at the price it is you really can’t complain, you’ll get your money’s worth as long as you have friends to play with.