Football fans have many options. NFL followers have nearly the same. Hell, even those who follow the art of golf, cricket, tennis or rugby are pretty well sorted when it comes to a videogame adaptation of the sport they love. But dodgeball fans? What is there for them?
Admittedly the target market might not quite be there for those who enjoy the experience of being smashed in the head with a ball, but indie developer Game Swing and publisher Curve Digital obviously think some will enjoy the battering as Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure promises to recreate the thrill, excitement and electrifying exhilaration of a full on dodgeball match.
That’s how it should be right?
Well, yes, it should be, but if I’m being completely honest, Stikbold! fails to bring all that excitement to our screens. Perhaps I’m struggling to get too involved in the dodgeball way of life or perhaps I’m not the fan of the fine sport that Game Swing are aiming this adventure at…but then, who is!?
Stikbold! (yes, with that exclamation mark present), tells the story of two ordinary guys. Björn and Jerome are the stars of the story and it is up to you to help them progress through various matches, defeating all the opponents in their path as they attempt to square up against the devil; saving the kidnapped Heidi Starbrow – the love of Björn’s life in the process. It will only be by learning the art of dodgeball and by winning the matches on the way to the final meet up will Heidi be saved, will Björn be happy and will Jerome be able to go on and continue his life like nothing ever happened. At least it would be if there were not a little twist in the tale of their dodgeballing adventure – but I won’t spoil it and you’ll have to play through the stages to find out how the story progresses.
Gameplay wise and Stikbold! just about does the job, but it’s far from exciting and across the 12 levels struggles to really make you get too enthusiastic about what is to come. Running, diving, throwing and obviously dodging options are all in place and all are fairly simple to action. It does unfortunately all become rather repetitive, rather quickly. The early stages will walk you through the basics and it won’t take you long to understand what is needed in order to succeed, but there are only so many times when you can dive for a catch, pass the ball to your AI partner or dodge out of the way of some out of control enemy vehicle before boredom starts to set in. Even the rather neat ‘Stinger’ shots and curve balls that can be thrown at opponents fail to ignite the passion and more often than not a full on button mashing affair with hippies, skeletons and global activists ensues. With a first to three win scenario in place and each match quite possibly having run its course within a few minutes, you can see how quickly the campaign can be run through before you start to wonder where things are going to take you next.
There is of course the chance to take part in the entire campaign with a friend in the local co-operative mode. Whilst this is a little more enjoyable than trying to play through the game with only the AI for company, the exclusion of any form of drop in/drop out multiplayer action is strange. Whilst the overall campaign may be pretty short, Stikbold! is crying out for the chance to let a friend jump in at will. Instead though you’ll need to create an entirely new campaign with the two player option enabled should you wish for your adventure to be joined by a friend. In a day when seamless swapping between single and multiplayer modes is a big draw in video gaming circles, Stikbold! falls a little short with its main multi draw.
Away from the main campaign though and the option of a quick match, where you can battle it out in teams or with a complete and utter free-for-all mentality are both fine additions. It’s the usual local only affair though but at least it’ll give a number of friends the opportunity to get involved in some fast paced ball throwing. The inclusion of numerous gameplay options, the full variety of maps taken direct from the campaign, level hazards, outside harassments and the chance to mess around with the win conditions allows for a tidy degree of interaction and involvement. It won’t be long before the anticipation and enjoyment ends though.
And it is about then when Stikbold! runs out of steam. Other than going back through the campaign and attempting to meet various requirements as you play each stage, there is nothing else to draw you back in or allow you to hone your dodgeballing skills.
The visuals are bright and colourful and I’m a rather big fan of the square characters that star in the adventure, with Björn and Jerome delighting throughout. They have been cleverly created and even though that horrible ‘Sims’ speak has been chosen instead of a proper language, it works well within the setting, the feel and the overall atmosphere of the game. In fact, I love the 70’s vibe that Stikbold! brings and the story itself was an interesting little playthrough. I also love the rather basic, blocky graphics that have been utilised. Unfortunately, and this is the real killer, I’m not overly keen on the actual gameplay with the frantic but rather simplistic gameplay that is contained within the main campaign ending far too quickly.
If you’re looking for something to spend a few hours with, perhaps as a decent way to waste a football free weekend, then by all means go on a little dodgeball adventure. But otherwise, it’s probably best to stick to the proper sports.