“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” This quote has been ingrained in me because I’ve seen Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story more times than I’d like to admit, but it’s because of said movie that I have a fondness for the schoolyard activity of dodgeball. Shockingly, not many games focus on this activity; some might feature it in a mini-game like in Bully, but Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure Deluxe is a 70s-inspired dodgeball game that runs wild with this idea and is surprisingly good.
The story of Stikbold follows two dodgeball hotshots preparing for the upcoming finals match to take home the gold trophy. After many years of success, the team was taken down in the finals of the previous year, and they’re ready to get back on top. Before the big match, the Devil breaks into the gym holding the finals and kidnaps the opposing team, including the love interest, and fueled by this love, your group of two dashes into action through 12 levels of dodgeball matches. I was surprised at how charismatic the story was, and kept wanting to push forward to find out where the story would go.
Of course, the story would mean less if the gameplay isn’t right, but Stikbold’s dodgeball mechanics work like a charm. It’s best to play with two Joy-Cons (or a Pro Controller if available) since it allows you to move with the left stick and aim with the right stick. You can charge each shot for better power, dodge incoming shots, shove other players, catch incoming balls, and skilled players will be able to curve shots to take down opponents hiding behind obstacles. It all works well and combined with the short nature of each match, had me wanting to play one more game.
Each of the stages has some obstacles peppered throughout that disrupt the dodgeball action. Whether it’s a hippie bus patrolling the outer rim, crabs that claw at you, or enthusiastic streaker fans that can’t wait to get their hands on you, there is plenty of variety in these levels, and I never grew bored. During matches, you will spend a considerable amount of time paying attention to your surroundings as you avoid the chaos, in addition to watching your opponents move around waiting for the perfect time to launch a shot at you.
I enjoyed my short time with the campaign, but since each match only takes a few minutes, it will go fast. I completed the story in two hours. There are multiple difficulties, and each mission has three fun challenges to give players more reasons to play, but I quickly became disinterested in the campaign after finishing the challenges. In addition to the story, Stikbold introduces other gameplay types such as handball, a mode where you pop an opponent’s attached beachball, and a break-the-crate game. These game types bring additional gameplay but unfortunately aren’t all on the same level of fun. I loved playing handball, but breaking crates wasn’t fun and went even quicker than a standard game of dodgeball. Popping beachballs adds diversity, but there were too many moments of randomness that caused me to lose a match before I even knew what was happening.
Where Stikbold shines is in the Wheel of Rumpus. This mode can best be described as Mario Party with dodgeball. Up to six players can join in on the action. Each round has players spin the wheel and launch a dodgeball that will randomly choose a new gameplay type. If you can’t gather your friends, bots can take their place, with different difficulties available, and they are no joke. A bounty system runs through each round giving players bonus points for achieving a particular goal, like eliminating a specific player first. This party mode is a blast and highlights some of my favorite aspects of Stikbold such as the excellent dodgeball gameplay and crazy level design, the latter of which made me lose many games due to being lost in the chaos, though I can’t complain.
Stikbold: A Dodgeball Adventure Deluxe is a surprisingly fun co-op dodgeball title that has excellent dodgeball mechanics. Even though the story is short, I enjoyed my time with the ‘70s inspired tale of love that took me through a variety of levels. Some of the additional gameplay types aren’t as fun as others, but the Wheel of Rumpus is a stellar party mode that will have you gather your friends around and scream at each other, just like a real match of dodgeball.
Disclaimer: Game Swing provided a download code for this review.