Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure (PlayStation 4) Review

By Nikola Suprak 31.05.2016

Review for Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure on PlayStation 4

People publishing sports games have their priorities all messed up. Madden and FIFA get a new game every year, which frequently feature little more than a roster update. Yet, there hasn't been a good dodgeball game for what seems like a decade now. Dodgeball is clearly the king of all sports, so it is a shame that it receives little to no love from game developers. Luckily, the people over at Game Swing know exactly what gamers need right now, and they've released Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure. It is exactly as zany as one would expect from a dodgeball based adventure, and will require all the skills learned from a fifth grade gym class to get past all the obstacles.

Most people probably have a fairly simple story in mind when they think of a "Dodgeball Adventure". People throw balls at other people; people who get hit by balls are out; end of story. Luckily, Game Swing isn't most people, because the story here is wonderfully weird. Fresh off their second place finish last year, the two heroes and their over-competitive coach are looking for redemption. Unfortunately, one of these two dodgeball warriors becomes smitten with his main competition immediately upon seeing here. And even more unfortunately, he is kidnapped by the devil himself about a minute into the game. Bjorn and Jerome must now track him down and rescue their competition, throwing dodgeballs and beehives along the way.

The game obviously wastes no time establishing a tone, diving headfirst into insanity within the first couple of minutes and refusing to look back as it runs another hippie over with a bus. Any game where the devil needs to be defeated in a game of dodgeball clearly isn't taking itself very seriously, and Stikbold! wastes no time donning its clown nose and honking loudly and repeatedly. It is a thoroughly goofy story, and one moment Bjorn and Jerome will be fighting honey loving hippies, and the next one they'll be tackling an enormous white whale. It fits the game almost perfectly, and while it is never really laugh out loud funny, it is charming and fun and does a nice job keeping the player smiling throughout.

Screenshot for Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure on PlayStation 4

While it might seem reasonable to expect the story mode of a dodgeball game to just be comprised of normal dodgeball matches, this makes things interesting by actually turning the story into an adventure. Sure, there are dodgeball matches here and there, but there's also a variety of interesting challenges and boss fights along the way. A match might be followed by a boss fight against a bus, or even a simple tower defence mini-game where Bjorn needs to protect an inflatable whale from lifeguards. There are lots of good challenges here, with each level having its own quirks and strategies required to get past it - this is far more than a series of dodgeball matches. The variety keeps things from stagnating, and the difficulty is ramped up a bit by including three challenges for each level; entirely optional, but die-hard completionists will want to finish them all.

The dodgeball mechanics are fairly simple, which is both a point for and against the game. On the positive side, it is extremely easy to jump into. Aiming and throwing are done with a couple simple button interactions, with charged shots requiring a bit more precise timing to pull off. The ball can be arced by moving the aiming stick after it is released, and the incoming ones can be caught or dodged by jumping into or away from them. Easier difficulties allow downed teammates to be revived by standing next to them, and the playable character can usually take a couple hits before going down. The first hit makes them stunned, and if hit again in the stunned state, then they go down and need a quick "pick me up."

It is all very simple, which helps contribute to how great the game is to just pick up and play. There are no complex manoeuvres to learn here, no real tricks that require time to master. It is as simple as a game of dodgeball itself, but everything works well making this a good example of nice, simple fun. At the same time though, the lack of any more complex strategies means the game does get a bit dull before it probably should. Simple titles like this are great at first, but, without the rewarding feeling that comes from mastering the controls, there isn't as much that will keep drawing people back after the initial high wears off. People are not likely to go on and play this in very long stretches, but is perfect for a quick match every once in a while.

Screenshot for Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure on PlayStation 4

While the single player adventure is entertaining in its own right, where Stikbold! really shines is in the multiplayer - this is meant to be played with friends, both cooperatively and competitively. The entire campaign can be completed with someone else, and doing so actually makes some of the more difficult challenges more attainable. It isn't that the AI partners are totally incompetent, but they do seem overmatched at the hardest difficulty - in a couple of levels the partner was guaranteed to die almost immediately, therefore, a friend makes the toughest challenges much more manageable.

Outside of the story mode, there is a free play selection that comes with all the slick dodgeball throwing action, but without any of the reading involved in the actual story. Here, matches can be made against AI opponents or other human controlled characters. Both team and free-for-all matches are available, with up to six total players able to join in all the chaos. Fighting against CPU-controlled characters is all well and good, although it does lack the same fun that comes from battling all the insane bosses from the story mode. It's a good way to get a quick dodgeball fix if there isn't anyone else around, but where it really gets fun is when a handful of friends can be scrounged up for some quick, multiplayer dodgeball action.

Screenshot for Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure on PlayStation 4

As a whole, this is thoroughly entertaining to play with friends, and the chaos that comes from dropping six people in one match and battling out for supremacy is good, old-school multiplayer fun. There are a handful of levels that are taken from story mode, each with their own environmental hazards and obstacles to overcome. The best part is once somebody is eliminated, they get to take control of some of the obstacles and use them to mess with those still playing. It is an excellent way to keep anyone involved once they've been eliminated, and an even better way to absolutely ruin friendships once someone decides to target another player out of pure spite. But, hey, a good multiplayer game isn't a good multiplayer game unless the potential for some friendship ruining antics are included.

The only major complain here is that there isn't more to Stikbold! that what's already been described. The omission of online multiplayer seems like a big absence, and with some online matchmaking, as well as a leaderboard, this is something that gamers could keep coming back to in their spare time. The inclusion of couch multiplayer is a huge bonus, as so many games seem to omit it these days, but online multiplayer would have undeniably made a good experience even better. Beyond that, this could use a bit more content. The story mode is a bit short, and the options for the free play aren't that great. There are only a handful of levels, and not a great amount of characters or obstacles to choose from. It almost feels like a trial version of a full game based on what's here. What is here is undeniably good, but things start to feel a bit boring and predictable after a while, since this doesn't offer much in the way of shaking things up once everything has been experienced once.

Screenshot for Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

It's probably says a lot for a game when the only real complaint is that there isn't more of it. Stikbold! hits all the right targets, but it feels as if it is just missing a little more. Online multiplayer would have been amazing, and a bit more depth in both the single player campaign and multiplayer options would have made this title complete. It's still good fun while it lasts, and even more so if a couple friends can be found for some dodgeball shenanigans. While it might not be the best party game, it is still a very good one - besides, how many other games are there where you can throw dodgeballs at enormous whales and honey loving hippies?

Developer

Game Swing

Publisher

Curve Digital

Genre

Sport

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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