That is the word that comes to mind while playing Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure. The graphics are bright and colorful, the game itself while simple is fun and there is a lot of humor to be had here. Stikbold! proves to be a surprisingly entertaining title, despite some notable flaws.
Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure had me wondering just what in the world I was getting into. The last time I played video game dodgeball was Super Dodgeball on the NES. I spent more hours playing this with my friends than I care to admit. This was a game that was far more fun than it had any business being, and while Stikbold! is a completely different kind of game in both presentation and overall execution, it too snuck up on me.
At first glance, you will see a bright, vector based game that shows off its sense of humor immediately. During the menu screen, you see an old guy get absolutely blasted out of nowhere by a dodgeball. That should set the tone for what is to come. The story itself is cute, following the exploits of Bjorn and Jerome. The latter of which is a slightly more grizzled personality, while Bjorn is in love with a woman on a competing team. Why does this matter? Because she gets abducted by the devil, of course.
Sure, it's ridiculous. Just as silly as the stern old man playing their coach while both Jerome and Bjorn are incredibly laid back goofballs. The game opens with the coach rushing in to whip them back into shape after they managed only second place the prior year - a pockmark on the coach's other pristine collection of gold trophies. Here you are walked through the basics of running, dodging, catching and throwing. Snippets of story are told through blocky cut scenes while the actual action takes place from a two-thirds overhead perspective.
The mechanics at play here are really quite simple, though there is some nuance in pulling off really good throws - like 'bending' your shots. The rules of the game are almost as straight forward. You are trying to knock out your opponents. The first time you tag them, they will hit the ground flailing for a moment. You need to then pounce on that opportunity and drill them a second time quickly. Doing so will put them out - but fail to capitalize on the moment, and the fallen dodgeball player will get back up and into the thick of things. Bjorn and Jerome are not immune to getting knocked down either, but there is a 'rescue' mechanic then that allows the player remaining on his feet to rescue the other.
As if the characters, sport, visuals and music were not zany enough, the story takes place over a dozen different levels. Early on things are mostly just cosmetically unique, but later levels introduce some interesting obstacles and even more unusual 'dodgeballs' (like a jellyfish. No, I'm not joking). Everything culminates in a boss fight at the end that is incredibly frustrating at times, and one of the few points in the otherwise relatively short story (probably just under three hours) where I felt 'stuck'. There are other boss fights, but really only the last one got on my nerves.
So while all of this works quite well, I found that Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure was best played with a partner. Supporting couch co-op, the two player game was far more entertaining than relying on your simple-minded AI partner. This is also true of the other competitive modes, which are a blast. This unfortunately leads into the game's second issue (duration being the first, but related here), which is the lack of online multiplayer. I love that there are more and more games taking advantage of the ages old local play, but I fear that the incredibly short campaign plus the lack of any sort of online mode is going to give Stikbold! an incredibly short shelf life.
That is a shame, because the game is utterly charming, with a quirky set of characters, a unique sport at its core and an over-the-top but entertaining story to play against. All of these things really work to Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure's advantage. However, limited multiplayer options, a short campaign and relatively shallow controls mean that players will probably move on from this title sooner than they otherwise would.
Article by Nick