Big red balls.
Why aren’t their more games based around dodgeball? This is a question that arises every time there is a new game featuring the divisive sport. Developer Game Swing has boiled down the fundamentals of the sport into a unique and addictive game with a great sense of humor. Intuitive and simplistic controls on top of a rather interesting story make Stikbold a game worth checking out.
A story mode in a game like this seems nuts, but it works. Players take on the role of powerhouse dodgeball players Bjorn and Jerome. After finishing in second place in last year’s tournament, their coach is determined to take home the gold with his perennial players. The game starts off with some montage training that also serves as a tutorial, leading up to the rematch with the reigning champs. Then things go nuts. The devil shows up and kidnaps the opposing team, leading Bjorn and Jerome on an adventure that can only be told in a game about dodgeball.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $9.99
Controls are simple enough, with players moving their avatars around the arena. They can dodge, dive, catch, and throw. Although designed as a co-op endeavor, players can opt to fly solo with the help of an AI teammate. The mechanics require players to hit their opponent twice in succession, with the first stunning them, and the second knocking them out. It sounds simple, and on paper it is, but Stikbold does an outstanding job of taking simple ideas and making them more elaborate. A solid match, either offline or online, is tenser than some matches of any given popular shooter.
Momentum also plays a key role in the action. Physics-based objects will only travel so far. This helps with the depth of the game play. This is performed based on how hard the button presses are. As I said, the idea is simple, but the execution is where it nails it. Everything about the core game play of Stikbold just feels great.
Levels also play a role in matches as the game progresses. Players will have to deal with traps in the arena, making it much more of a strategical encounter. These hazards can of course be turned off when playing modes solo or with friends. The randomness of these obstacles though are a large part of what kept me playing long after the story mode ended. Even when I lost, I was having a great time.
I am also a huge fan of the style the game delivers. It reminds me of a mix between an episode of South Park and a colorful late 70s movie. The characters are vibrant, and the levels offer up a nice array of locales. The simplistic design is complemented by the fact that everything feels unique and fresh.
Stikbold is not going to set the world on fire, but it is one of the best competitive/co-op experiences I have had in a while. There is a lot to see and do, even with a criminally short list of modes and features. The story mode is entertaining and the multiplayer had me coming back for more and more. I recommend checking it out if you enjoy local multiplayer games with an interesting twist.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.