I played MultiVersus for the first time with two buddies over the weekend.
As a big Super Smash Bros. fan, I was worried this might be another Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl-style disappointment, but instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the inventive characters and neat team-based mechanics. It wasn’t all good, though. We quickly discovered that there wasn’t actually any option for all three of us to play. Instead, the game currently only supports two- or four-player matches, and there isn’t even an option to add a bot if you only have a three-person group like I did.
To be sure, MultiVersus is technically in open beta, and developer Player First Games says it will eventually add more co-op options. But still, the fact that three-player support was seemingly completely overlooked was frustrating, and it got me thinking of how local multiplayer options seem to be an afterthought in recent years. Often, games that do have multiplayer seem to have only local or multiplayer options, like Halo Infinite, which, after several months, has only finally begun to roll out campaign co-op, but it doesn’t have online matchmaking. Conversely, Fall Guys, which celebrated its second anniversary this week, still doesn’t support local multiplayer.
It’s a shame to see games lack such options, especially because there are others on the market right now that are using both local- and online-supported multiplayer to wonderful effect. As I mentioned in my review, the recently released Xbox exclusive As Dusk Falls drives engagement in a fascinating, unique way: by letting you and the other players mess with each. Essentially, As Dusk Falls is an “interactive drama” game in which players can connect via a controller or mobile app to vote for decisions, and there’s even a limited-use option to override one another. It’s a brilliant way to get everyone involved, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
“Of course, I get that not every game warrants multiplayer, especially as someone who primarily plays narrative-driven single-player games.”
This is similar in concept to what Supermassive has done with its own branching narrative games, like The Dark Pictures Anthology and The Quarry, the latter of which I’m going through now. Every year, my friends and I play these games for our Extra Life charity streams, and it’s a highlight every time. In the Supermassive titles, each player can control one or more characters, passing the controller around when it’s your turn. Through this mechanic, we had a blast screwing with each other and, in some cases, even trying to kill characters one of us disliked. That’s to say nothing of the online support for these modes and extra Twitch-friendly features to involve those tuning into your stream.
And these are just “choose-your-own-adventure” games. Last year, the title that took home Game of the Year at the Game Awards was none other than It Takes Two, an experience that required two players to run through a wildly creative teamwork-focused campaign. This even drew the attention of my mum, who normally doesn’t play games, and she really enjoyed it. The same could be said the year prior for Sackboy: A Big Adventure, which we played splitscreen during the holiday lockdowns. And after that MultiVersus session with my friends, we moved on to Nidhogg 2, a clever 1v1 shared screen multiplayer duelling game.
If we’re looking at 2022 games, we also recently got the multiplatform puzzle game Escape Academy, which can be played alone but is made far enjoyable by letting friends team up to solve escape rooms. This year’s Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and the Canadian-made TMNT Shredder’s Revenge and Nobody Saves the World also offer some good ol’ tried-and-true, all-ages co-op fun. On the more punishing side of things, Elden Ring‘s drop-in, drop-out co-op — returning from other FromSoftware games — is a great way to get some help whenever you’re stuck.
Of course, I get that not every game warrants multiplayer, especially as someone who primarily plays narrative-driven single-player games. That said, I definitely enjoy multiplayer games once in a while, and I appreciate when developers put in the effort to offer fresh spins on the format.
Hopefully, titles like MultiVersus can follow suit, because multiplayer is one of many special and unique things about gaming. Now if you don’t mind, my friends and I are going to head back to The Quarry.
Image credit: 2K Games