Dodgeball has always been seen as one of those sillier sports. One that doesn’t take itself too seriously, predominantly played in schools; a sport open to a bit of ribbing. Don’t get me wrong though, there are plenty of professional dodgeball players making a living out of it, just like there are those earning a crust competing in combat juggling and chess boxing. But for those that take dodgeball seriously, it is best to keep them well away from OddBallers.
The latest dodgeball themed party game, OddBallers already has some stiff competition from the likes of Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure and the short-lived Knockout City. It also has the might of Ubisoft backing it, helping to develop and publish it.
But first impressions are not good. After an abnormally long initial load, OddBallers opens up with a UI I’ve now seen too much of. I’m talking about the free-to-play battle pass main menu; you can already picture it. A status bar will show how much XP is needed to level up, various different currencies are proudly displayed in the top right and an obtrusive window will give all the latest OddBallers news. I’ll be honest, my heart sank as I was expecting something different from OddBallers. But there is a reason for that.
OddBallers isn’t free-to-play, it is on the Xbox Store for £17.99. Fair enough I thought to myself, but there must be a premium battle pass to explain the different currencies. Wrong again and in fact, there doesn’t appear to be any microtransactions for OddBallers at the moment. It genuinely looks and feels like OddBallers was going to be a free-to-play game until a decision was made last minute to turn it into a premium title.
The result of this are dead servers. Since its release I have not managed to get a single matchmaking game with online opponents. Fortunately, as a site, we were given multiple codes so a few of us could play together. We also threw a couple of bots in for good measure and one of them looked like Lemmy from Motorhead. Things were starting to pick up.
A standard game of OddBallers allows you to pick from three different locations: Bumpkin Farm, Codham City and Thousand Islands. Each location has their own unique game modes, as well as more traditional dodgeball modes thrown in. There is a lot of variation on offer here and it is surprising how much traction can be got from a simple dodgeball mechanic.
The common modes include last man standing, collecting stars from vanquished opponents and a survival mode, but the region specific modes go a bit buck wild.
Down on Bumpkin Farm there are team-based games focusing on collecting honey and shearing sheep using a lawnmower, all whilst pummelling your opponents with whatever you can get your hands on. In some cases, that does also mean a turnip. There is even a PvE mode as all players team up to defeat the Barnyard Brothers. This trio turn up on a tractor in much the same way as the convicts do in Dead Rising and you must literally throw everything you can at them in order to defeat them. Friendly fire is very much a reality in OddBallers so keep an eye on your temporary teammates as well.
In Codham City there are levels involving catching fish to deliver to the fishmonger. Or you can then use said fish to destroy your opponent’s portaloo or once again work together to smash the car up, Street Fighter style. And just for good measure, there is a variation of handball also playable.
Finally there is Thousand Islands. Here you can partake in lava dodging, a game of flatball or football or just dodge a cursed boomerang for as long as possible.
Points are awarded for your performance in each mode. If you are that mode’s overall winner you get three points, with a single point awarded to anyone who finished second. Once you have seven points, you have earned a match point and just need to win one more round in whatever comes next to be the overall winner. Of course, this also puts a bit of a target on your head.
In a standard game, these wackier modes don’t come up often enough, as every other round is a traditional game mode. You can tailor this however you want if you are making a custom game, and it is recommended you do so. Despite these unusual modes, repetition and a lack of overall content is an issue. How much longevity OddBallers has in its current state is a concern.
One thing that won’t get old are the zany visuals. Obviously, you can create your own character and equip it with a variety of items from the battle pass and the store too, creating some unusual avatars. Even the Rabbids from Rayman get involved as a playable character. But it is when you are running around a stage and attempting to grab the items where you get some funny visuals. Elbow and knee joints seem to swing both ways as you run around like a bull in a china shop, trying to avoid anything and everything. There are some real chuckles to be had when playing with friends.
In its current guise, OddBallers is perfect for a free-to-play transition or as an Xbox Game Pass staple; anything that would help its cause and avoid another trip to the virtual graveyard for Ubisoft. That’s because OddBallers has a fun and quirky side to it, and much like dodgeball, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. But this is a game that cannot survive on AI opponents and custom lobbies alone. There is one small change needed to help propel OddBallers into the next great online party game, and that’s to go free-to-play.
Join your fellow weird ones in OddBallers on the Xbox Store