When the guys at TiX asked how did I feel about getting balls in my face I was a bit worried that I was going to see a side to Rich and Dave that I had never seen before or some weird initiation for coming back to write for TiX, thankfully my fears were put to one side when they gave me Stickbold! A Dodgeball Adventure to Review.
Developed and published by Game Swing, Stickbold! A Dodgeball adventure takes you on a trip back in time to the 70s where the music and everyone’s appearance was, let’s just say groovy. Enter Jerome and Björn the two main characters you play in the game and I might just add, look like they have just come out of a Abba tribute band. Whilst practicing for the championship game the Devil appears, yes I said the Devil, and trust me it just gets weirder. Well anyway, the Devil appears and kidnaps their rivals and being good sports and having a bit of a love interest with Heidi Starbow, Jerome and Björn head off to track down the Devil and rescue their opponents in a journey of highs, lows and romance. As you track the Devil by a trail of oil that he has mysteriously left – told you it was weird – you move from one place to another facing various rivals and enemies beating them in the only way you know how to, Stickbold.
Each Stickbold (Dodgeball) game consists of three rounds and the aim to is win the match and defeat your opponents before moving on to the next mission in the story. Each match is in different locations from a beach to the middle of a roundabout/street and feature appropriate opponents from Surfer dudes to Hippies. You also have to face environmental hazards from VW camper vans to rolling waves and even hotdog vendors. However you can also use these to your advantage and a well thrown hotdog or jellyfish can stun your opponent giving you the upper hand. My favourite has to be the Captain Ahab lookalike who even comes with a huge white whale.
As with any story driven game, you must have bosses to battle against and Stickbold is no different. This is where the rules change, not only are you trying to fight the boss in a heated game but you have to dodge whatever he throws at you, literally. Take the Whale mentioned above, who does its best to try to eat you during the game. There are 12 levels in total to the story mode and these can easily be completed in a few hours – as you play you unlock 12 playable characters and this is just the start of the fun.
Having beaten the Devil, bosses and made it all the way through Surfers and Hippies you are left wondering what else is there to do and the answer is coop multiplayer. Ever fancied hurling a huge red ball directly into the face of one of your friends whilst looking like Boris Becker, well get limbering up. The multiplayer really brings this game into its own and the local couch coop brings friends together but trust me, they may leave as enemies. If you do happen to get taken out by a shiny big red ball then never fear as Stickbold has you covered. Once you are eliminated from the game, you don’t have to just sit there and watch the rest of your friends having fun, you can take an alternative view of the game and interact as one of the ‘Out of Court’ characters. These characters, like the Camper Van and crabs, are in the Story mode and are there for one thing and one thing only and that’s to cause chaos. This is a great way to extend the gameplay and keep everyone happy and really does stand out as a great feature of coop multiplayer. Alas there is no online multiplayer to get your teeth stuck into but to be honest the game holds its own and doesn’t need it.
So that’s Stickbold gameplay in a nutshell but how does it play? The controls are simple and responsive, the left stick moves you around, the right stick aims the ball once you have picked it up and the right trigger hurls it. The longer you hold the trigger the harder you throw it and the more rewarding the thump when it hits your opposition in the face. There is a dodge move that is controlled by the left trigger, this also doubles as a barge move and you can push your opponents out of the way. Now I am going to let you into a little secret, when you have released your ball at full power you can in fact curl it using the right thumb stick to reach people who are hiding behind objects. Now this is a skill in itself and very rewarding if you can pull it off but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Graphically Stickbold is bright and colourful and the blocky characters bring a sense of fun to the game that makes it appealing at all levels and even though the story mode is short-lived and a little repetitive, and I forgot to mention that your AI partner is just plain stupid, the local coop multiplayer really makes this game.