A staple of movies set in American schools, dodgeball is a sport that some love and many hate. Seen as the divider between the strong and the weak — at least in pop culture’s eyes — it has been a living nightmare for quite a few kids over the years. Still, there’s no denying that it’s a fun and neat sport when played properly and with a fair rule set that prevents people from teaming up on weaker opponents. It also has the chance to be cool, as Denmark’s Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure seeks to prove.
Colourful, creative and wholly unique are three terms that accurately describe Stikbold, which happens to be the story of two badass dodgeball players named Bjorn and Jerome. Together, the two form a daunting duo, which has secured first place in three out of the last four championships. Their last outing ended with a silver, second place trophy, though, and that has their coach fuming.
Things begin in the coach’s office, where just glancing at his trophy shelf leaves him in a fist-banging rage. He’s antsy, worried and nervous, too, because this particular day happens to mark the latest championship match, in which his two horses are contending.
It isn’t long before coach drill sergeant makes his way to the adjoining gymnasium, where Bjorn and Jerome are goofing off instead of practicing. Aloof and fun-loving, they’re not cut from the same cloth as their no-nonsense coach. That’s very apparent, and is something that is a running theme throughout Stikbold.
While this is a game that centres upon dodgeball and uses the sport as its core gameplay, it’s not your typical sports game. Not even close. In fact, Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure is more akin to an interactive stew comprised of twin-stick shooting mechanics, adult cartoons and dodgeball’s basics. The cartoon inspiration doesn’t just come from the game’s colourful, vector-based graphics, either, as the storyline is similar to what you’d find on Adult Swim. Well, maybe not as vulgar as some of those shows, but similar in some ways.
You see, it isn’t long before the shit hits the fan. Just when you think that Bjorn and Jerome have it tough with such a demanding coach, an oil soaked devil runs into the gym and takes off with their competition, one of whom happens to be the most beautiful woman in town and Bjorn’s love interest. So, you can imagine what happens next, as the duo takes off to destinations unknown, in order to get the beauty (and her partner) back.
There are twelve levels in Stikbold!, and when combined they total between two and three hours of gameplay. Each one is unique and creative in its own right, too, pitting our dodgeball champions against unlikely competition. Examples include hallucinogenic honey making hippies (who you can throw beehives at), sea-loving bikers, and even Moby Dick, himself. Yes, you get to fight a whale as a boss, and he’s not the only big bad that will test your mettle.
Regular levels are set-up as dodgeball matches, wherein the first to three points (or wins) is victorious. Points are awarded for knocking each one of your opponents out in a given round, and to do so you’ll need to hit them twice. The first hit makes them dizzy, whereas the second officially knocks them out of contention. Be careful, though, because dizziness is only temporary, and failure to deliver a knockout hit within a given amount of time will force you to start over.
You can be knocked out, yourself, but you’re lucky in that Bjorn and Jerome are able to ‘revive’ one another, by standing by a downed ally for a short period of time. When things are crazy, it can be tough to safely do this, but you’ll need to master this skill if you hope to compete in what is a surprisingly challenging game.
Now, to actually deliver a hit, one must pick up the ball (or whatever environmental hazard is available, be it a jellyfish, a piece of molten rock or a beehive) and then throw it like they would fire a gun in a twin-stick shooter. On Xbox One, this means using the right joystick to aim (plus curve the ball after it’s been fired, if you so please), and the right trigger to throw. Holding the trigger makes for a more powerful throw, and using a hard throw to hit an enemy who’s a long distance away can result in a one-hit knockout. That same trigger can be used to knock the ball out of an opponent’s hands, whereas the left trigger is utilized for diving.
Each level has its own unique charm and hazards, and things can get pretty hectic, especially later on. This can lead to some frustration, as the computer can land some pretty cheap hits from time to time. The final boss battle is especially nuts, and may cause those with short tempers to toss their controllers at something. However, it is beatable and it’s important to note that this difficulty is the game’s normal setting, which is joined by an easy option that can be chosen from the get-go. A harder difficulty is actually available for unlock, and can be chosen once you’ve completed the campaign once.
As you can surely tell from the embedded screenshots, Stikbold! is a very colourful and stylistic game. It’s certainly unique-looking, and its graphics really pop off of the screen, especially during its zany cutscenes. It has the odd performance issue, but nothing that’s anywhere close to being major or game-breaking. Just the average hiccup here and there.
The audio is also stylized, and includes fitting music, plus dialogue that is spoken in a foreign language. I assume that it’s Dutch, but I can’t say that for sure because I’m not all that familiar with their dialect. It could very well be a made up language.
At the end of the day, it’s pretty easy to recommend Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure to those who are looking for something different. While it’s not perfect and has its flaws, it’s very colourful, creative and unique, and won’t set you back very much. Plus, it’s an excuse to call some friends over for a few drinks, a lot of smack talking and some local multiplayer, which always makes for a good time.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
If you're looking for something unique, then Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure may be right up your alley. A combination of twin-stick shooting, mature cartoons and a creative take on dodgeball, it's a fun and challenging little game.