By: Brian Gunn
There haven’t been many dodgeball games over the years, with the activity often being a mini-game or in a collection rather than standing on its own. With Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure, Game Swing has attempted to give the sport its due, though they largely prove why it’s never made a big splash.
Simple controls for a simple sport seem to be the motto. Stikbold is fairly approachable and so many people should be able to pick the game up quickly. Characters control kind of like in a twin-stick shooter, minus the gun obviously, with a dodge and pass mechanic added on.
While playing with another person is generally recommended, to the point where you’ll always have an AI partner, it can be played as a single-player experience as well, though one small annoyance crops up with this.
There’s no way to switch between characters besides passing the ball or your currently controlled one going down, which is kind of annoying when the AI enemies focus on your partner and you just want to swap to them so you can dodge better or grab the ball quicker.
Stikbold has a pleasant visual style. It’s bright and cheery, and the boxy characters are often charming. Still, the relatively simple art style might not appeal to all, and some of the environments are a little bland. It can also get visually busy on the harder maps, making it somewhat annoying to keep track of the ball.
There’s a sort of beach-disco funk vibe to the soundtrack of Stikbold, and it works fairly well to sell the silly atmosphere of the story. While there is voice acting, it’s of the gibberish kind, often sounding like the Swedish Chef Muppet. The plunk sound effect as you nail gibberish spouting beach biker in the face is satisfying, though other sound effects fail to stand out.
Stikbold thrusts you into the role of the second-best Stikbold (read: dodgeball) team on the eve of their attempt to change that title to simply being the best. But somehow the devil comes and kidnaps your rival, who also happens to be a good-looking woman the protagonist has a crush on. This will obviously involve playing a lot of dodgeball in order to rescue her.
The story is pretty much nonsense and mostly an excuse to string together silly gags. Our heroes will trudge along and fight with hippies, crusty old sea captains, and the devil himself while using inflatable whale toys for a sea voyage.
Each encounter is typically split into two. First, there’s a traditional dodgeball type match, where the first team to reach three wins is declared the victor. The others are where the game lets loose a little bit and are one long stage of doing something like protecting an area or defeating a boss.
All of these stages start off pretty simple but loads of obstacles and gimmicks get introduced. Most of these are fun, though some kind of get annoying given how many there are — such as crabs that slow you down on a beach level.
The actual mechanics are fairly simple, with aiming on the right stick and throwing on the right trigger. A tap will do a normal throw, while holding will execute a power throw. There’s also a dodge button, which doubles as a catch button if you time it right in order to steal the ball away. Like the catch, there are a few advanced techniques skilled players will learn, like curving your throw, but the basics will suffice for most challenges.
Stikbold‘s biggest fault is there’s just not a whole lot of it. Most players will breeze through the story in two hours, and while the multiplayer can be fun, it’s generally not exciting enough to come back to for most local co-op players.
A lack of an online mode means multiplayer matches will probably be a rare event. There are additional challenges in each stage for completionists, like hitting the driver of a van in the face, and each story mode unlocks characters for the multiplayer.
Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure ends up as a fun, albeit short diversion. The goal of making a fun dodgeball game has been achieved, but it’s not something many will get more than a few hours of entertainment out of.