The battle can finally be decided on the dodgeball court.
When the word dodgeball is spoken, I instantly think of a face-paced, mindless action sport. I mean the rules are simple: pick up a ball, throw said ball and dodge incoming balls (or catch them), simple and fun. Now, when I hear the words pirates, ninjas and dodgeball used in conjunction, well, that’s just the ultimate game of dodgeball. While the concept sounds fantastic the real question on everyone’s mind is, can it deliver?
Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball is well, what you would expect: pirates and ninjas throwing red balls at each other. To spice things up, there are two other factions thrown in the mix, zombies and robots. The only comparison between this game and real dodgeball is how many people are present on each team. Whether you have two-on two, three-on-three or the ultimate match of four-on-four this is where the similarities end.
Now, in real dodgeball, if you get hit once you’re out and the only way to get back into the game is to have a teammate catch an incoming attack. In Pirates vs. Ninjas you have a health bar so if you get hit once, you are still in the game. And besides throwing and dodging, you also have a melee attack. These attacks don’t physically hurt your opponent, rather they stun them. So if a pirate has a ball and is ready to chuck it at your face, you can run up and pummel them three times and drop the ball. While they are stunned you can then snatch up the rock and move about your business.
To make things a bit more interesting each faction has a different special move that ranges between stunning your enemies, to turning invisible. There are also different kinds of ball throws. You have your typical throw which you pull off by running and throwing the ball. You have a homing throw which is done by standing still and throwing. And finally, you have a power shot which you do by jumping and throwing the ball at the apex of your jump. Due to the variety of shots you have to dodge them in different ways. The normal shot can be dodged by rolling out of the way, by using your melee attack and hitting it back to the guy who threw it or you can catch it and throw it back. The homing shot can only be caught or hit back, and the power shot can only be dodged.
The environments in the game are par for the course when it comes to the quality of an Xbox Live Arcade title. Each environment is unique to each faction. For example, the pirates play in a beach environment while the zombies make their home court in a graveyard. The story involves the rivalry between each faction and is told through dialogue text boxes between each match. The outlandish script is entertaining, if not a bit far-fetched, but it does help serve as a catalyst between matches.
There are a total of three different match types which all feel familiar in execution. The core mode allows you to run around at your leisure on either side of the court while the other forces you back to your side after three seconds. The traditional mode strips players of special moves and allows you to traverse to your opponents’ side by means of jumping. All three modes are strikingly similar and don’t allow for much diversity. The game is also slower paced than you would imagine giving a sense of playing the game in tar. The camera angles also hinder play by confusing you as to where the ball has landed and just exactly where the court ends and the invisible walls begin. This can be really troubling and makes you feel removed from the action whenever you run to the back-half or corners to retrieve a ball.
Really, the saving grace to this game is the multiplayer. You can play a local game with up to four players, co-operatively or on teams versus each other. You can also take it online and play with up to seven other players.
What it all boils down to is this game lacks a lot to make it a fun dodgeball game. The camera doesn’t fit and the action is bit too slow-paced for some. Unfortunately, this is your only good option for a dodgeball game on the XBLA (we are going to forget the extremely terrible Double D Dodgeball). On the bright side for ten bucks you will be hard pressed to find a better dodgeball experience outside of the original NES classic and when you manage to wrestle up seven other players online it can be quite entertaining. Not quite the classic some were expecting, but still far from the dud some have claimed it to be.