Sumotori Dreams is a small demoscene game created by Peter Sotesz for the Breakpoint 2007 96k game competition (it took first). The premise is simple: two self-balancing physics rigs face off in a sumo ring. The first rig to fall over loses. The implementation is simple but satisfying, and is well supported by solid physics, decent lighting, and good camera work. You can play against a computer opponent, but the real fun is playing Sumotori against a friend on the same keyboard.
It’s worth mentioning that Sumotori is a technical masterpiece. Even ignoring its miniscule size, the physics engine stands alone as innovative. The destructible walls provide a great sense of impact. I spent a few minutes just destroying them in the game’s hidden mode (shoot between the right-most slat to destroy the near corner wall on the title screen). If you let the ragdoll men stagger around a bit after a match they’ll usually end up in the walls, too. It’s great fun to watch them smash things in their desperate attempt to right themselves.
How Does it Play?
The control system in Sumotori is once removed. The physics ragdoll rigs are self-balancing, so they’re in constant autonomous motion whenever they’re off balance (which is 100% of the time as soon as you engage your opponent). Even moving around is a little spastic—it looks like your input doesn’t control the rig directly, but rather nudges it off-balance. The actual locomotion is a product of the rig self-righting itself to compensate for the new imbalance.
As a result, it can be frustrating to play Sumotori. It’s especially punishing if your play style is aggressive. It seems more productive to do small, controller movements, or sometimes not move at all. The victors in many of our battles were simply the rig that fell second, even before the rigs were touching. Matches are over quickly; very few engagements lasted more than a push or two before one of the characters would completely lose its footing.
Sumotori is awfully impressive—self-balancing bipeds are a very difficult domain, even in the scope of “serious” research. Granted, a video game can tweak the rules of physics where a physical robot cannot, but it’s still a great achievement. I’d love to see Peter keep tweaking the physics to massage the gameplay to a more advanced state, but even now Sumotori is a fun party game. Plus, it’s only 87k and it’s completely free. Give it a try!
Download Sumotori Dreams Game (87 KB)]
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More information on Sumotori can be found at Peter’s official page.