The Apple TV would like it if you thought it was a gaming machine! At the moment it’s not, of course; it’s not even a very good set-top box given the other options on the market. Still, it’s got an Apple logo on it, so there’s a fair chance you’re going to get one or know somebody who will, and if that’s the case you ought to grab the touch remote and give Harmonix’s marquee launch game, Beat Sports, a try.
At first glance, Beat Sports seems to be clearly “inspired” by Wii Sports, which is unsurprising given the Siri Remote’s resemblance to the Wii Remote in both form and function. You’ll wave the remote around like a ninny in order to hit balls and feed aliens. If this had come out before 2009 it’d be an instant recommendation as there would be nothing like it on the market. But as it is…well, it’s not too inspiring at first glance.
The unique aspect of Beat Sports, though, is its incorporation of rhythm elements into the gameplay. Instead of just hitting a ball back and forth in tennis, for instance, you’ll need to listen to the background music to help you determine when to swing. Proper timing is key, so in fact Beat Sports plays more like a version of Nintendo’s sleeper classic Rhythm Heaven.
There are three modes of play. First is Net Ball, the aforementioned version of tennis; by listening to the music you’ll know when to swing to hit the ball instead of relying on any sort of actual tennis skill. As someone who completely lacks tennis skill, this was a relief! The next is Whacky Bat, a sort of home run derby with a robot where you play on several parallel lanes. This plays much like the tennis game, but also incorporates swiping across the Siri Remote’s touchpad to hit balls coming down other lanes.
Finally, the last is Hangry Holes, an odd sort of golf where you whack balls of food to hungry aliens. This one relies on following along with a rhythmic guide in order to earn maximum points. There are several levels of difficulty for each of these activities, so if you’re into them you’ll have plenty to do.
There’s also a multiplayer mode available if you can wrangle together up to three friends. You can’t use more than a single Siri Remote with the Apple TV, because, uh…anyway, they’ll need to install the (mercifully free) Beat Sports app on their iOS devices (iPhone or iPod Touch) to make this work. It’s a swipe-focused mode a la Hangry Holes where players will need to time their swipes to keep volleying a ball to several aliens and back, with swing timing varying based on the alien that gets the ball. You can choose which of the other players has to hit the ball and you’ll also have to deal with obstacles, so it can end up becoming pretty ruthless depending on who’s playing.
This is a nice addition to the game, though I don’t know if I’d call it a must have, especially since this is your only choice for multiplayer and it doesn’t seem especially emphasized against the comparatively vast amount of single-player content.
That’s pretty much Beat Sports! There’s a cutesy customization option where you earn new gear for your character by doing well in the minigames, but it’s relatively minor and doesn’t affect gameplay at all. If I were a Harmonix employee reviewing my own game on Amazon, I’d give this game an Editor’s Choice in a heartbeat! I’m not, though, so instead it gets a standard recommendation; if you already have an Apple TV and you’d like a distraction (and maybe have a friend or two with half an hour to spare), Beat Sports is a decent choice, but it’s a simple game that doesn’t sell the system.