It’s 9-9 ten minutes in, your teammate is feverishly trying to defend your goal with squares while you go on the offensive. All you need to do is shoot the ball into the goal, but one of the opposition is in the way – you charge up your shot ready to fire. You can see there’s space on the right side of the goal so you tilt and aim, but your charged shot is about to run out so you quickly fire blindly. The blue arrow saves and deflects the ball right across the arena into the back of your goal and you lose! This has been the majority of my experience with Videoball.
Videoball, as a game, looks and plays extremely simplistically. It’s an arena based multiplayer focused game where two teams battle it out to see who can outscore the other – something that makes it sound like the brilliant Rocket League. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Firstly it’s a one button game, meaning that no matter what button you press the same action occurs. In this case the discharge of shooting arrows at a ball to try and score a point for your team. As the player, you are in control of a coloured arrow (blue or red) with three different charging stages with each one leading to a more powerful, sometimes damaging shot. Not only that but you also have means to defend your goal – getting in the direct line of a travelling ball will almost instantly stop it dead in its tracks – however, depending on the speed in which the ball is moving, it may cause you to fly across the other side of the arena leaving your goal defenceless. A much more decisive way to try and stop the opposition from scoring is creating squares and placing them in the way of the goal. You do this by holding down any button and charging until a coloured square appears at the end of your arrow. By letting go of the button you place it. It can only withstand a few shots however so even though it is a viable strategy, relying on it isn’t recommended.
Sounds simple enough right? Well, it’s not.
The movement is something akin to Geometry Wars; tanky and even after letting go of the analog stick, your arrow continues in that direction for a second longer, before coming to a stop. It feels overly floaty, not incredibly precise, and can be frustrating when you’re trying to be just that. Add in the fact that if anyone is caught in the cross fire of an opposing shot – or even friendly shots – they lose control, leading to situations where you could be fully non-controllable for at least a few seconds. What can be said about Videoball is that it has minute depth, the further you dig into the mechanics of it all and how they work, the sooner you realise the amount of play styles available to you. Want to all be attacking players? You can. Does one of you want to stay back and be more defensive? You can. You can even just shoot arrows at your opponents all game and watch them bounce around the arena walls unable to charge shots up.
There are only a handful of modes in which to use these strategies though and unfortunately they all play quite identically. The so called single player mode, which even the game boasts should probably be played with a partner, is a standard Arcade Mode that consists of several levels that, although simple in design, can be quite challenging – if not a little too challenging alone. Each level pits you against different forms of A.I. that seem to be named appropriately to its behaviour. Some include ‘Buddy’ who generally sticks close to you, or ‘Middy’ who tends to stick near the middle of the arena where the ball spawns. Each A.I. has a different form of aggression the higher the level you reach in Arcade Mode.
Arcade Mode is merely a glorified tutorial really as the only other offline mode is Local Play. As the title suggests, this gives the opportunity to jump into a local multiplayer game with up to six friends. Don’t have six friends to play with? Well the game also lets you fill in the gaps with computer controlled partners wherever needed.
Not only does Videoball let you choose between the plenty and varied arenas in which you play, but you have a lot of customisable options at your disposal as well. You have the ability to not only change cosmetic things like the way the ball looks, but also the number of balls that spawn in the field, leading to certain situations where you and your potential teammates can create quick strategies on the fly. It’s almost eSports like in fact. Before the match starts, you can also determine the score limit (it goes up to 100), time limit, and whether a slam-dunk is worth more than a touchdown. It’s quite impressive that it gives you these options, but I’ve found that even though the game boasts different shot types, it’s actually quite hard to deliberately pull them off. Due to the frantic nature of each match, in most cases you only get them by accident.
For all its customisable options, by far the best is in respect to the fantastic music; it’s brilliant in bringing you back to that upbeat simple electronic tone from your childhood.
Now you’d think a game so similar to the likes of Rocket League, and to a degree, the old school Windjammers, would live or die by its online community. Well, let’s just to get to the point… the online community for Videoball on Xbox One is almost non-existent, leading to a constant searching message on your screen. When I did manage to find a host or another player in a lobby it only ever consisted of one or two players, which is pretty unfortunate. In my time playing Videoball I only actually managed to get into a few online games…and that was after sitting in a lobby screen for at least twenty minutes.
After playing Videoball I soon realised that this game just wasn’t for me, I really tried to enjoy my time with it, but with every good thing, there are at least two frustrating elements, most notably the lack of online action. At the end of the day, if you’re asking me whether you should buy Videoball or not, then unfortunately the answer is no. There’s no sustainable community, nor is there enough content here to choose it over other, better, more exciting games that do the same thing.
If you’re after an arena based multiplayer title, then look no further than Rocket League!