Think of this as nothing more than a really good mini-game and nobody gets hurt
Certain body types have their place when it comes to games. Some people are better at certain things than others due to their physical make-up.
For example, exceptionally tall people make good basketball players, but not very good jockeys. Large people are useful in football; lithe people make good hockey players; and so it goes. Fat people don’t make good dodgeball players, but they do make excellent video gamers – case in point: me. So, it’s only fitting I spin you a tale regarding my adventures with virtual dodgeball as I review Super Dodgeball Brawlers.
Based on the NES classic Super Dodgeball, which was released in ’89, Super Dodgeball Brawlers is an all-new presentation that sports a slightly expanded gameplay premise. As the name suggests, players can expect a mix of dodgeball action and brawling. That’s right; fighting, or as we like to call it when it comes to sports, hockey, is present in Super Dodgeball. Combining dodgeball and combat may seem an unlikely pairing, but it not only works…it’s a lot of fun. The combat is an integral component to the gameplay, as it allows you to gain control of the ball in addition to eliminating opponents by reducing their health. To some, this may seem like a match made in heaven, but there is trouble in paradise.
Despite all the efforts of the developer to make Super Dodgeball Brawlers a more varied and up-to-date game, it has a lack of depth that will rapidly extinguish any potential for lasting appeal. You can count on a good solid hour of entertainment in the single-player mode and probably another hour or two in the multiplayer mode, but when you can squeeze all of the life out of a game in an afternoon, all I can do is recommend a rental. The single-player mode is little more than a glorified mini-game; an extremely well done mini-game to be sure, but you’ll experience everything the game has to offer in a very short time. The multiplayer component is also very well done, as it can accommodate up to eight players with a single cartridge. But, it also lacks depth. It’s like a kindergarten deathmatch mode.
Rival schools compete on the court for dodgeball supremacy. Teams are sectioned off, each into one half of the court. From here they launch an all-out assault on their competitors in an attempt to hit them with the ball, reducing the team’s stamina level player by player. When a player is hit with the ball, he or she isn’t eliminated, but their overall health is reduced. The game is played until one team loses all of its health. When throwing the ball you’ll have an assortment of attacks at your disposal. These attacks are essentially power-ups that you can acquire through winning competitions and earning money. These power-ups are exclusive to each character on the court and remain active until the player gets hit. Most of the power-ups are subtle in that they increase a player’s skill level similarly to experience points in an RPG, but obviously not as deeply. Abilities such as power, speed, and accuracy can be upgraded to give you some kind of advantage in throwing the ball or other objects (more on that later). When under attack by the opposing team, you’ll need other attributes to help you dodge incoming balls. Speed, evasion, and the ability to jump high should help to keep you in the game longer, as you have more dodging skills at your disposal.
Each player on each team has slightly different attributes / stats, which ultimately makes each team different. I can’t determine how well balanced this is, as some teams are really aggressive and seem to be far superior to others. It may be that my team was too deficient in specific areas, but setting the difficulty to “Easy” instantly leveled the playing field. As I acquired more money and was able to upgrade, I found I could compete with some of these stronger teams more confidently. The teams to watch out for at the outset are the Canadians and the Russians. The Russians seem to shoot the ball out of a damn cannon. Their shots are fast, strong, and accurate. The Canadians are a bunch of lowlife rascals. They revel in the dirty brawling tactics that are a staple of the gameplay.
Of course, there are plenty of ridiculously fun power-ups that include launching the ball like a cruise missile (complete with homing device), and the ability to spike the ball so hard it splits into three balls (thereby increasing the amount of damage to the other team).
Speaking of damage, and who doesn’t like to speak of damage, the brawling aspect of the game allows you to get down-and-dirty, employing cheap and dirty tactics. You can run into the other team’s court and deliver some choice kicks and punches. By doing so, you can cause the other team to lose control of the ball, which is always a good thing since that would mean you won’t be on the defense.
Being on the defense means there’s no chance of you scoring any points, but instead face the prospect of being eliminated. The brawling tactics do deplete your opponent’s health, but it only chips away at it, whereas a good solid hit with the ball takes a huge chunk of stamina away. Besides throwing the dodgeball, a variety of objects will appear onscreen, that can also be lobbed at the opposing team including baseballs, chains, hand grenades, and soda machines.
With one cartridge, up to eight players can take part in the Brawl mode. It’s a free-for all, and despite the small screen, it’s easy to keep track of your character and what he or she is doing. There are times when it tends to degenerate into a big mess, especially when most of your team crowds into one area. You do have the option of playing a straight game of dodgeball without any combat or weapons. That only serves to show you how weak the actual gameplay is without the added brawling elements.
The speed of the game varies due to the increase in difficulty, and for the most part it suits your abilities. The problem is that regardless of how slow the ball is moving, it can be quite a task to grab hold of it. The controls are not consistently accurate. At times, the ball may be to the side of you and picking it up is as easy as pressing a button. Other times, the ball can be right in front of you and you’ll miss it, even though you had it dead to rights. It’s frustrating to lose the ball due to a faulty control system. Fortunately, the control layout is intuitive and responsive for the most part.
As updated as this version claims to be, it wears its old school heritage on its sleeve. Graphically, the court looks flat, the players look squat, and the animation is stiff. This is pure vintage arcade all the way, including the cheesy 80’s style synthesizer patches that percolate and buzz the melodies in front of a bed of retro techno rhythms.
Super Dodgeball Brawlers is little more than a nostalgia trip, but it’s a short trip, so there’s no reason to pack your bags.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.2 Graphics
Flat, squat, and isometric perspective. Old school but not in a charming way. 3.0 Control
Some collision control issues, but otherwise decent. 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Cheesy 80’s arcade-style tunes and sound effects. 3.0
Fun for a while. Multiplayer may add some replay value.
2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.