I can’t say I’ve had too much exposure to the sport of dodgeball growing up, though I suppose it isn’t a very English sport.
There was the odd game in P.E. throughout school, tossing old, worn-out footballs at each other’s faces even though we were expressly told to go for the legs. What started off as a light-hearted game played by a bunch of kids with smiles on their faces often quickly devolved into a bunch of savages launching projectiles at that one child who was rather good at dodging but not so good at throwing. Looking back, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually played dodgeball; instead I’ve partaken in a series of rituals to eliminate the weak.
What begins as a jolly little game-similar-to-dodgeball tournament game swiftly escalates into a epic chase in the pursuit of romance and revenge. Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure, developed by Game Swing, follows the escapades of Björn and Jerome, two stikbold (a game that vastly resembles dodgeball) superstars who put off claiming gold in the stikbold championships to go after Satan; he has kidnapped last year’s champion, who also happens to be Björn’s sweetheart – though she doesn’t quite know that.
Off the bat, you’re playing in a standard sports hall with your standard dodgeballs but you’ll soon find that you don’t actually need the dodgeballs in order to play what is basically dodgeball. It’s not long before you’re diving aside of the oncoming whale vomit or hell-fire. You may sit there thinking, “Wouldn’t it get awfully boring sitting through game after game of dodgeball?” Well, so did I. I was wrong. Variety isn’t something Stikbold! fears, as many other sports-related games and indie multiplayer seem to. From beach front and hell-scape arenas to boss battles involving hippies in a Volkswagen camper lobbing acoustic guitars at you, there’s constantly something new around the corner. Not only does the co-op story mode offer a lot in terms of variety, but the mulitplayer versus mode also includes a series of different arenas as well as a good sized roster of unlockable playable characters.
Gameplay-wise, Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure is a bloody fun game. Stikbold is played top-down in a circular arena rather than the usual two-sided rectangular one used for dodgeball. Obviously, the aim is to knock down the opposing team by launching whatever objects are available at their faces, but in this case team-mates are able to revive their own and it takes a couple of hits to get someone out. It’s effectively a twin-stick shooter that’s fun for all the family! You control the velocity of the projectile, where you’re going to throw it, and when and in which direction you’re going to throw yourself in order to stay in the game. Should you go down after taking a ball to the behind, you could always pursue revenge from beyond. After you’re forced out of the game by the other team, you can take control of obstacles from outside the ring and hinder their play.
While the soundtrack is consistently funky and pleasant to listen to, the visual style is something of an acquired taste. To begin with, I wasn’t too sure on the art; it’s fairly simplistic and blocky, a style that isn’t too rare on the indie market. Though, to be fair, as I progressed through the game the visuals grew on me. Maybe it was the bizarre level design – perhaps the childish yet witty humour distracted me – but as of writing this review I find the graphics rather pleasant; they’re suited to the game, that’s for sure.
Don’t be fooled by its colourful exterior; Stikbold! is capable of being a harsh and unforgiving game. For me, the difficulty level shot up out of nowhere when, at one point, I found myself playing against a whale and a bunch of activists. To be quite honest, that’s one of the few downsides I found, besides the art style that may not be to everyone’s tastes. Overall, Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure has a lot to offer. It’s incredibly fun thanks to its addictive gameplay and wholesome humour, and shouldn’t be missed. If I saw it on the store, it’s likely I would’ve scrolled by without a care. Don’t do that, give it a chance; it’s great fun.