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    How local multiplayer is back in fashion

    Up until recently, local multiplayer looked to be becoming a thing of the past. Crushed under the hefty boot of online play, those days of getting together with friends, laughing, shouting and whooping while you played TimeSplitters 2, Tony Hawk’s HORSE mode, or even one of the many amusingly crap WWE games, seemed consigned to a place in the nostalgia wing of the Videogame History Museum.

    On the contrary, local multiplayer is experiencing something of a revival and it’s being led by indies. For the big studios, the money is always going to be in online multiplayer, but there are a raft of small developers whose favourite gaming Memories were born from playing videogames whilst sat on a sofa beside friends. It’s those developers that are building games specifically designed to create those moments that you only get when you are in the same room with other human beings, games that shine when there is an audience to cheer for you and poke fun at the competitors.

    Indeed, part of the reason that local multiplayer is experiencing a renaissance is that there’s something compelling about seeing real people play against each other in person. The likes of Sportsfriends built their reputation on the exhibition scene where the game drew crowds that found themselves getting engaged by what was going on and wanting to get involved themselves. Look at the trailer for Speakeasy as another example it shows people reacting to playing the game as much as it does the game itself. The reason it does that is that when you see the crowds cheering, players laughing and fist pumping, you instantly get that it’s the fact that the game can illicit those responses that makes it, and local multiplayer as a whole, special.
    It’s not only indies that are breathing new life into local multiplayer, though. With the addition of Share Play to PS4, Sony could just be giving sofa gaming another little boost. Sure, in allowing you to virtually pass a pad over to a friend online, Share Play doesn’t provide the pure experience of playing with a friend in the same room, but there is a way in which it does taps into the spirit of local multiplayer. Was not part of the fun about playing all those classic multiplayer games back in the day that you were introducing each other to new games, sharing stuff that others perhaps didn’t have? In allowing you to invite a friend to join you in playing a game that they don’t own, Share Play allows us to share games with friends once again, even if they are separated by distance.

    As a result of facilitating and enabling that desire to share, Share Play can be a boon to the local multiplayer genre. Indeed, we’ve heard anecdotal tales of people being introduced to and won over by the likes of Towerfall: Ascension through Share Play. In fact, Towerfall is an interesting example. Many people were put off that game because they weren’t in a position where they would be able to get friends round to play, or because they understandably weren’t prepared to go out a buy another expensive PS4 controller. Share Play means we don’t have to worry about that. Developers can focus on making a game that’s 100 per cent built for local multiplayer, safe in the knowledge that they need not necessarily lose sales because people can’t afford a new controller or don’t live in close proximity to their friends and will be put off their game as a result. In that sense, Share Play is an excellent way of supporting developers who want to continue making local multiplayer games and that can only be a good thing, because really we want to see more games like these…

    Nidhogg is an exhilarating multiplayer game with possibly the best sword fighting mechanics in any game ever. The objective is to get to the end of the level to be consumed by a giant worm that we presume is the titular Nidhogg. In order to do that, you need to kill your opponent, allowing you to push forward to the next screen before they respawn. As you carefully feint and jab at your nemesis with your sword, you’ll to realise that the combat is surprisingly deep, providing you with a counter to every tactic, whether that be disarming an opponent, knocking them down or even lobbing your sword at them from distance. The momentum shifts that occur as you battle make Nidhogg an intensely satisfying local multiplayer game. 

    A compilation of four multiplayer games (and a couple of hidden ones), Sportsfriends is a great package for anyone who enjoys playing with friends. Sportsfriends includes Johann Sebastian Joust, a game in which you have to try and keep a Move controller or DualShock  stable whilst trying to knock your competitors to eliminate them; BaraBariBall, which is a bit like Smash Brothers with a beach ball; Super Pole Riders, a pole vaulting game in which you have to knock a ball suspended on a rope above you into a goal; and Hokra, a game that plays a little like top down ice hockey, the difference being that you score points by keeping the puck in your team’s zones. In short, Sportsfriends is a game with loads to offer. 

    We can’t tell you how delighted we are that Gang Beasts has been announced for PS4. We’ve played a bit of it in the office on PC and trust us when we say that it is bloody brilliant. This multiplayer brawler involves trying to throw your opponents out of the environment or into hazards in order to win. You can control each of your arms separately, which allows you to, for example, grab someone’s back and hold onto them while you repeatedly punch them in the head. This also leads to some particularly great moments as you desperately cling on to foes that are trying to chuck you over the edge of the level and  then somehow manage clamber your way back up onto the stage. We can’t wait for this game to hit PS4 later this year.

    Towerfall: Ascension does actually have a single-player mode, but nobody’s really playing it for that, because it’s multiplayer where it shines. It’s an arena combat game in which you’ve got a limited amount of arrows with which to take out your foes. Once you’re out of arrows, you can rely on head stomps or grabbing the arrows that have already been fi red. The most awesome option, though, is to replenish your stocks by catching your competitors’ arrows in mid-air. Though simple at its base, once you wrap your head around its mechanics, Towerfall can become incredibly deep, rewarding those who are skillful and precise. In other words, you and your friends can get fiercely competitive with this one.

    The gloriously silly Starwhal is game in which you must pierce the heart of your opponents using the tip of your Starwhal ’s horn. Unlike some of the other games on our list, Starwhal opts for having its creatures control a bit clumsily rather than trying to make an incredibly tight action game. That’s a decision that proves to work in this case, making the game wonderfully chaotic as four players weave, twist and fl op about each other. Alongside the standard deathmatch, Starwhal also has a number of other modes that play with the standard formula. Pleasingly, these other modes are immensely fun. Get a group of four friends together to play this when it comes to PS4 and we promise you’ll enjoy it.

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