Now I might be going out on a limb here, but the concept of a dodgeball video game really doesn’t appeal to me. I mean sure, it takes away the pain from dodgeball, but it also seems to be a rather absurd concept to base a game on.
Dodgeball has left many a scrawny adolescent crying out in frustration after having their glasses busted. Now there’s Pirates Vs Ninjas Dodgeball for those who cherish these memories. It recently sauntered onto the Xbox Live Arcade marketplace at a price point of 800 MS Points to join numerous other dodgeball style games, but is it worth the price? Let's check it out.
Pirates Vs Ninjas Dodgeball was born out of that eternal question: who would win in a fight, pirates or ninjas? This game tries to answer that question.
In the story you play a small band of pirates (an old pirate captain, his daughter, and their ‘crew’). On your adventures you run into ninjas, zombies and robots, all of which can be played either online or in the offline game mode. The story mode is however really just a waste of text. It has the occasional bit of humour in it, but to large extent it's just badly written and makes you cringe. You’ll probably find yourself skipping over most of the story in order to get back into the fray.
Graphically the game is built very nicely. The character models look good, and they all appear as accurately piratical, ninjistic (that so should be a word), zombie-like and robotic as you could want. The character types each have different traits that make them perform slightly differently in the game and they also have a number of special moves that can be implemented. One of the zombies I played had the ability to tunnel into the earth and race around for a short while protected by a layer of soil. All of these things are accompanied by rather nice effects.
But what would dodgeball be without some decent 3D arenas? The arenas are nice looking and often have a neat atmosphere and different environmental traits (soil, plasma style shields to hide behind), but often slightly confusing and clumsy to move around in.
The controls lack the intuitive feel one might expect from what is essentially a sports arcade title. This may be simply down to the fact that it's often difficult to keep track of your character, or what’s going on in your team as a whole. You have the ability to switch through players on your team, which worked well enough, but I found most of my team (when under AI control) would be destroyed reasonably quickly, with the AI of the computer controlled team simply being too quick. Each player has an attack function as well, which you can use to force the other player to drop the ball, however when playing against the AI you rarely have much opportunity to use this, and I have yet to witness the AI using it either.
You have a range of throw moves, a standing still throw which will give you greater accuracy and a 360 shooting radius, a running throw which means the ball will go in the direction you are moving, and a jumping throw which will simply give the ball more power. The throws are still the easiest to pull off, with the auto-target helping substantially, however you also have the ability to catch and dodge balls. Catching is a timing thing, and so far I have found it difficult to use in the heat of a dodgeball match. Dodging seems to be a bit hit and miss with it only working some of the time, and sometimes the ball (despite already being thrown) will simply track to your player.
The saving grace of this title might be the multiplayer, however I found this to be rather a ghost town. The best part has to be trying out the different characters and exploring their special moves. There is no doubt that fighting amongst your friends about who would win - pirates or ninjas - can finally be played out. The question that you have to ask yourself in that situation is, do you really want to know?
Again we come back to the difficulties surrounding translating dodgeball into a video game. There are already too many dodgeball style titles on the marketplace, and this may be one of the better ones. However the implementation is lacking, the small levels often feel slightly cluttered and the controls feel clumsy and hard to time. The game is hit and miss and the AI is all over the place, sometimes being very easy to beat and other times near impossible.
This is not the way we wanted the epic question of pirates vs. ninjas answered, and despite all good intentions from the developers, it simply isn’t as fun or as easy to play as it should be.