Not your middle school gym class type of dodgeball.
In the first year of the Nintendo Switch, we have seen several titles take advantage of the console’s multiplayer prowess. The concept of a same-screen, multiplayer dodgeball game for the Switch might seem like an uninspired attempt at joining in the multiplayer fray, however, describing Stikbold!: A Dodgeball Adventure Deluxe as just a party game grossly fails to explain what awaits.
The game of Stikbold is played in a circular court in which dodgeballs and other objects are flung between teams. After hitting an opposing player, stars begin to show over that characters head for a short period of time. If that character is hit again while the stars are over their head that character will become knocked out. The same applies for the player’s character except if one player is knocked down, they can be picked back up by another player-controlled character. If all players are knocked out on a team, the game ends. A match is won by the team to first reach three game wins.
Stikbold features an adventure mode that can be played solo or in two-player local co-op. Adventure mode begins as star Stikbold players Bjorn and Jerome prepare for the championship game only for their opposition to be kidnapped right before the game by Satan. Of course, our chivalrous, short-short-clad stikbold heroes value sportsmanship too much to just take the trophy, so they begin a journey of battling various enemies in the game of Stikbold to bring their opponents back for the championship.
While humor and surprisingly challenging gameplay make Adventure mode the highlight of the overall offering, Stikbold is a same-screen multiplayer game at its core. Up to six players and or computer-controlled bots can play Stikbold!’s various multiplayer modes.
The main Quick Match mode lets players set up free-for-all or team matches. While playing with six players, it can be difficult to keep track of the action on screen even in TV mode but for some, this added chaos is what will make Stikbold a great party game. I also found that free-for-all matches of more than three players ended up as players just stealing the ball from each other so frequently that actual shots taken on other players with the ball were rare. Team matches seemed to work the best with larger groups of players, cutting down on the confusion and speeding up the action.
In addition to typical matches, Stikbold offers four competitive mini-games. Of all the mini-games, Handyball was by far the mode I enjoyed the most. Handyball is essentially soccer using dodgeball mechanics so it is not a huge departure from a typical match. However the defensive aspect of defending a goal adds an extra element of chaos that shines in team play.
While Stikbold is a worthwhile multiplayer experience, the cooperative adventure mode is what sets it apart from other multiplayer-focused titles. Players looking for a primarily single-player experience will be disappointed by the adventure’s short length. However, those seeking a compact experience and a go-to party game for groups of multiple skill levels will find Stikbold up to the task