When Apple showed off its new 2015 Apple TV – the one that could be used to play games – it chose guitar Hero and Rock Band developer Harmonix’ Beat Sports as one way to demonstrate the system’s games capabilities. History hasn’t exactly been kind to the Apple TV as far as games are concerned, so not knowing that Beat Sports even exists is entirely excusable.
It’s back, this time bringing the simplistic rhythm sports game to Nintendo’s Switch. There’s an irrelevant narrative premise that gives the affair a bit of context. A world of music-obsessed aliens has caught products of different Earth sports and, not having any real clue how they work, have come up with their own rhythmic facsimiles. They then come to earth to challenge humans at their new, musical takes on traditional sports.
The first of those games is Whacky Bat, which is Baseball, with an Audiosurf injection. From the other side of the pitch, aliens in the three lanes will throw balls, and you’re tasked with hitting them back in perfect synchronisation. Different types of aliens throw with different rhythmic timings, and later levels require you moving from lane to lane tapping away to send balls beck from whence they came.
The second (and dullest) sport is Gobble Golf, which is a bit like an electronic version of Simon Says. Aliens on one of three floating islands chime a tune, which the player has to reproduce by knocking golf balls into their warble by knocking balls into their mouths at the right time.
Next up is Net Ball, which is nothing like Netball, and is instead a musical take on Volley Ball. It’s the most reactive of the lot of games. Where most of the others have you mimicking a beat, this one has you volley balls from your partner and to your opponents, until you’re all set up for a smash.
While all of those games allow for single and double play, the last two games are a little more party-focused – allowing up to four players to get in on the fun. Buddy Ball isn’t far removed from Whacky Bat. One to four players hit the ball to one of three alien targets. Depending on the type of alien that’s there, it’ll send the ball on to the next human or AI player at a different speed. Miss the shot and you lose a life – and you’re out of the game if you lose them all.
Bettering Beat Sports and earning its “Super” prefix, the Nintendo Switch version features one extra sport by way of Rhythm Racket, arguably the most complicated mini-game in the five-game collection. It’s a bit like if pinball and Arkanoid got smashed together with Air Hockey. You have to defend a goal against up to three players. By just bunting a ball away, it’ll go off slowly, but timing a hit lets it speed off. There’s less emphasis on music, but quite a bit more of a focus on timing, and the speed and angle at which you project your ball.
The minigames are all wrapped up in a cartoon aesthetic that reminded me of the Scott Pilgrim comics, and cartoons like Steven Universe. Unfortunately, the electronic music isn’t especially catchy, and all of its beats start to blend into one another. There’s also not much variety. The challenge does ramp up as you play and it does start requiring a fair bit of dexterity. Yes, there’s also a pro-mode for rhythm game veterans that ramps up the difficulty, but at its heart the games are perhaps too simple for anything but the most casual play. Still, it’s enjoyable, and for its price makes a nice diversion.
Last Updated: November 14, 2017