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Super Pole Riders' two extra players turn the game into a frantic, strategic sport

The experience pitched by the Sportsfriends bundle, a Kickstarted package of four local multiplayer indie games for PS3 and PC, can be seen in a single match of Super Pole Riders, QWOP creator Bennett Foddy's contribution to the package.

The game's un-Super version is already free to play on browsers, and serves as the mechanical backbone for its sequel. Track-suited athletes carrying vaulting poles attempt to kick a ball hanging from a rope overhead to move it into their opponent's goal. Like Foddy's best games, it's purposefully cumbersome; your pole rarely plants where you want it to, leading to gleeful accidents and frantic jousting. You can eschew kicking altogether, attempting to sweep the ball into the goal by holding your pole straight up and running alongside it. You can also attempt to knock your opponent out by vaulting on top of their head, taking them out of the fight for a few seconds.

That's PoleRiders, which is already certifiably bananas. Super Pole Riders doubles the number of players in any given match, in turn doubling the original's hilarity.

In Super Pole Riders, two teams of two players compete to achieve the same goal of moving the hanging ball into their opponent's goal. The field in the demo we played at the Horizon indie game E3 event was much shorter than the browser version, and featured large divots below each team's goal, making the aforementioned sweep shots (a somewhat cheap maneuver that undercuts the game's vaulting mechanics) a lot more difficult to pull off.

It feels, in many respects, like an actual sport, despite its physical impossibilities.

The game is a whole different beast with a second player on your team. Not only are you able to pull off far crazier tandem maneuvers — like scooping your teammate up with your pole and launching them into the ball — but it lets you formulate dynamic roles on your team on the fly. Success hinges upon realizing what needs done and filling that position, whether it be attacking the ball, killing your opponents, blocking them from walking across the field, blocking a shot by holding your pole in the air and so on.

It feels, in many respects, like an actual sport, despite its physical impossibilities.

The controls are wildly improved, thanks to Super Pole Riders' compatibility with controllers on PC and PS3. Using the left stick, you control your athlete's movement, and with the right, the direction in which they're swinging their pole. It makes maneuvers a lot easier to pull off, and carries a much shallower learning curve that the comparatively punishing PoleRiders. (Go try and complete more than two of PoleRiders' training stages, and you'll see firsthand how stubborn your vaulting pole can be.)

The Sportsfriends package is designed to be a game that you build your social gatherings around, and Super Pole Riders certainly seems worthy of its own, dedicated gaming parties. My demo's four players had a difficult time relinquishing our controllers after three matches — I look forward to an occasion where I can play it without being forced to share.

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