Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure PS4 Review
Publisher: Game Swing Developer: Game Swing Genre: Sports Players: 1-4
Age Rating: 7+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
Many sports have been converted into console games; basketball, baseball, tennis, cricket – even lacrosse. And there’s a few football games in there too. No sport is off limits though, and the newest console game iteration of a sport is dodgeball, with Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure making its way to the PS4 and Xbox One. Whilst to date there are at least nine variations of the sport, Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure adds humour, bright colours and camp, 70’s throwbacks. Why in the 70’s? Probably because it was a year of very funny things, with headbands, tight sportswear, huge flared trousers, equally huge hair and trippy colours paving way for the campiest decade ever.
Upon starting the game, I noticed almost straight away that it has a very LEGO feel about it, with blocky characters and humour very reminiscent of their yellow, blocky counterparts. There is a story, following dodgeball team mates Bjorn and Jerome as they track down the devilish kidnapper of Bjorn’s love interest/dodgeball champion Heidi and her team mate. The pair come face to face with many tough adversaries all whilst learning what it means to work as a team – as the game’s slogan says, “No one is a team alone!”. The story is as basic as you can get, but with colourful, charming characters and fun, light-hearted humour, it all enhances the appeal of the game, with each uniquely themed dodgeball match taking centre stage to the story.
After a short cutscene, you’ll be taken to a dodgeball match that consists of three rounds and the first team to win all three rounds wins. After each match you’ll think you’ll have mastered what to do, but each one has something different to offer, throwing up many surprises; you’ll be competing against hippies, crazy pirates, and even the devil himself. During each match there are many obstacles to avoid, such as crabs, bees, tidal waves, skeletons and many other minor characters, such as eco-friendly protesters, wandering onto the play area and all wanting to disrupt your success; you’ll even have to avoid the love of streakers later on! Despite the games overall light-heartedness, you’ll soon come to realise that each match is no walk in the park, requiring a lot of concentration and reflex skills, and later levels may even have you tearing your hair out. One match in particular is truly gruelling, but certainly leaves a huge sense of relief upon completion. Each match is designed in such a way that they are all fresh, and you never feel as though you are playing the same one twice.
At the start of each match you are also set optional challenges, whether that be to knock out another opponent in some bizarre fashion, knock out multiple opponents in one hit, or something else. Completing these does not reward you with anything other than the satisfaction that they have been completed. After playing each dodgeball match, however, you are rewarded with extra playable characters that can be used in Quick Play mode. The new characters don’t offer any upgrades or special abilities, but they are still fun to use.
In fact there are no special abilities in the game; no meters to charge up a magical dodgeball attack or any other such power. It is all played very straightforward; you move your character, can dive out of the way of an opponents attack, curve the ball to strike at players taking cover, pass the ball to your team mate and can use the analogue sticks to better perfect your aim. The only special ability in the game is that you may not always need to use the ball to attack, with other items becoming available during certain matches that can be used to stun opponents, helping you to land a strike, knocking them out of a round and landing you the point. Keep in mind though that opponents can also use these items to their advantage against you.
The game can be played alone or with another player in story mode, with one or two players taking control of both Jerome and Bjorn, but I much preferred playing with someone else. Playing with a friend adds extra fun, as you both try not to hit each other and can better spread out attacks, with both players focusing on different opponents and ending the match quicker. Well, that should be the case, but as mentioned earlier, the matches are not easy to win at all, and it can take several attempts before you get a win, and this is made even more difficult with an AI team mate as they do not attack very often and prefer to pass the ball, which they do a lot. When the AI passes the ball, a successful pass – meaning the player passed to catches the ball immediately – means you then take control of that player and it can lead to a bit of confusion as to where you are on the play area. This game is definitely best played with other people.
There is also a Quick Play mode, in which you can choose between playing Team VS Team or Free-For-All. In Team VS Team, up to 6 players are divided between multiple teams at once. There can be a maximum of three teams on screen but that does change depending on how many players there are per team. You can have two players in each of the three teams (Blue, Green and Red), pit five players against one, or have 4 VS 1 VS 1 and so on. In Free-For-All mode, 6 players go head to head, bashing each other to see who is the overall best dodgeball player. Each mode is also very customisable, allowing you to take away hazards, change the amount of points needed to win the match, increase/decrease the AI difficulty and so on. It should also be mentioned that although there can be 6 characters playing on screen, only 4 human players can take part, with two AI controlled characters in both modes, and also there is no online gameplay. This in no way reduces the fun of the game, as it makes it feel more nostalgic playing with friends in a room together as opposed to online, playing alone.
With its simple controls, Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure is a very easy game to learn and offers a lot of variety, with lots of small details added to make the game fun and exciting to play. There are a total of 5 distinctive levels across a story spanning 12 chapters with each one offering something new, making each match unpredictable and leaving you to wonder what is waiting ahead for you in the next one. As a fun time waster to play every now and again, Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure does manage to keep you interested and entertained, particularly in the multiplayer modes. A very psychedelic game indeed.