We’re in the midst of the 2016 Summer Olympics, and what could be better than a retro themed Summer Olympics game? The pixel perfect retro graphics of Sports Hero, by Cherry Pick Games, had me reminiscing about my childhood days playing Nintendo’s interactive Track & Field on the power pad.
Sports Hero Overview
This game gives you the option of playing by yourself, or playing head-to-head with another player. Since both players are using the same screen at the same time, the interface gets really cramped even at the iPhone 6+ size, so you are really going to want to try that on an iPad. I will say that it is worth trying out the 2 player mode because beating your friend in a virtual race feels just as good as doing it in real life.
You start the game by customizing your bitty character. You can choose male or female, a few skin tones, and the country you want to represent.
Once you’ve got your character set, you start off on your journey to ultimate domination. There are six events to choose from, though without paying to unlock them, you have to unlock each event in sequence by earning enough stars. You earn the stars by repeatedly coming in first place in the current event against progressively more difficult opponents. The events available are 100m Sprint, Weightlifting, Javelin Throw, 50m Swimming, 110m Hurdles, and Long Jump.
The 100 Meter Dash event is the simplest to master. The controls are easy, and there are no obstacles in your way. It gives you a good feel to how the game will go and lets you practice the movements to start building some muscle memory…just like real sports!
Out of all the sports I had access to, Weightlifting was my favorite. It had a good sequence of controls, the artwork and animation worked well together, and there was something that felt very satisfying about stacking plate after plate of heavy metal on the pixellated bar. You’ll have to try loading the bar up beyond all hope of keeping it balanced above your head to see what happens. Again, it’s probably my favorite animation in the game.
It took me a few minutes to master how to combine the mashing speed that I had become accustomed to on the first two events with the quick reflexes required to angle and release the Javelin at just the right moment. Once I got the hang of it, I was able to throw that sucker super far.
I was certainly no Michael Phelps when it came to Swimming. The controls just felt odd to me and I could never really master them. Quickly and repeatedly swiping down at a regular rhythm just isn’t something that my fingers (yes, I tried more than just my pointer) are willing to do. Maybe with a bit more practice I could be less terrible, but I don’t see myself winning too many golds in this event.
I also had a difficult time getting good at Hurdles, because it took coordination of both hands making a pattern of quick movements. I did however end up mastering hurdles in the end though which brought me to the last event.
The Long Jump event uses similar controls to Javelin Throw, which made it a fun final event to play. Since I was already used to them, it made this one pretty easy to master. I did appreciate the subtle feedback you get when you hit a really long jump. The game slows down as your Olympian takes off so you can sit back and enjoy the glorious ride.
Simple User Controls
The controls for each event type is slightly different, but it’s easy to pick up in the first couple of attempts. It’s mostly as you’d expect, mashing two alternating buttons to run and then pushing another button at the proper time to execute an action. This interface worked well, but after about an hour and a half of playing the game my fingertips were pretty sore from mashing the screen. The game does suggest an alternate method of user input, swiping/rubbing your finger back and forth over the two buttons, but this creates quite a bit of friction and heat on the fingertips and was far more uncomfortable than mashing the screen furiously.
While I enjoyed the earlier events, the controls for the Swimming event was such a diversion that it was by far the hardest event to take first place. It turns out that repeatedly swiping down in a regular rhythm over a small hit area is not easy in the slightest.
Too Many Ads
While I can appreciate the need for ads in a game to generate revenue, this game felt like it might have had too many. It looked like there was an ad every third attempt at an event. Since the events mostly took around 15 seconds, that meant I was seeing a 30 second skippable ad plus an ad screen about once per minute.
In addition to the ads that were forced on me, there were also optional ads that I could watch that would give me a bunch of stars, helping me unlock the events more quickly. These ads were offered in between events by a coach peeking in from the right side of the screen. I likened it to an football player watching game footage…nobody wants to watch game footage, but they’ll do it to get their coach off their back. Some of these ads were interactive though so I had to actually pay attention to them, but by the time I got to the Swimming event, I was pulling up these ads as often as possible just to unlock the next level.
All totaled, in just over an hour and a half of playing Sports Hero, I watched 25 minutes worth of ads.
Overall I felt like Sports Hero had some fun elements, great pixel artwork, and was released at the perfect time to coincide with the Olympics. If you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy playing the Olympics on your iOS device, while watching the Olympics on TV, and streaming the Olympics on your computer. Because, let’s be honest, you can’t have enough Olympics in your life.