Developer: Game Swing
Publisher: Curve Digital
Platform: PC [Reviewed], Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release Date: April 1, 2016
Disclaimer: The following game was reviewed on PC via Steam. A code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
I never really thought I would be reviewing a title about dodgeball. It seems so obvious to make a game about sport in retrospect, but I have never played one. That is until I started up Stikbold!, the ’70s styled, dodgeball title. That game capitalizes on a genre that really hasn’t been tapped into and does it in a way that oozes with fashion, style, and character.
While Stikbold! May not offer everything you’ve ever desired in a game, it certainly is a fun, short, and unique take that really hasn’t made its way into the digital realm.
Now, to be completely transparent, Stikbold! isn’t exactly dodgeball, but it does resemble childhood sport very closely. To be specific, you’ll play the game Stikbold, which is a playground game with Scandinavian origins. Stikbold is kind of like a loosely sculpted form that many have played here in US elementary schools. The structure plays out where players run around and tag each other with a ball, and can bring players back in who have been tagged.
It’s fundamentally like dodgeball, but a little less specific in terms of rules. I absolutely love this unique spin on the game. Prior to this point, I had never heard of stikbold and being able to be introduced to a new sport in a charming and witty game is a huge plus. Furthermore, Stikbold! definitely takes advantage of the open-ended nature of the game it derives semblance from. Instead of just throwing you into an endless string of matches, Stikbold! changes up the pace to throw unique challenges at you. One of my favorites is when you are actually put out on a ship dock and forced to play the match while fending off a massive whale who wants nothing more than to swallow you whole.
At first, the blocky graphics of Stikbold! kind of turned me off. I really thought they looked harsh and dated. However, the more I played the game, the more they grew on me and, reaching the end, I actually loved the pixeled-art vibe they added. Everything was kind of caricature-of-a-caricature, furthermore selling the idea of the ridiculous (but still fun) tasks that were set out in front on you. You might also notice the various characters featured in the screenshots and promo trailers. While the game does feature multiple characters, they really don’t differ in terms of actual gameplay. The two characters you can play as only change in terms of aesthetics, but nothing specific comes into play for moves or specials.
On completion of the game, I found it hard to imagine the graphics in a different way, and the blocky and ultra-bright color palette of Stikbold! left a marked, dripping with charm, impression. The overall uniqueness in visuals doesn’t stop at the art direction, either.
The music and voice-overs (or guttural sounds) contribute to the overall feeling of the game as much as the graphics do. Game Swing achieved this feeling in a sort of LEGO style fashion, substituting dialogue for just noises in favor of subtitles. Much like in the case of the LEGO games, I think this was really the best option for the developers. The distance that is created from noises as opposed to actual voiceovers contributes even more to the caricature idea. To do with actual voiceovers as opposed the straight noises would have created an awkward disconnect within the game, having a noticeable gap in design. Not only was it smart, but it was an absolutely critical move to this sort of dialogue, and I’m certainly glad it was done in such a way.
Every piece of the game seems great. From the well-paced happenings, the environment and character designs, it all seems very well anticipated and thought out. That is, while it lasted.
The content Stikbold! grants you is amazing, but it just felt like there wasn’t enough there. From playing through the main storyline, I was only able to squeeze about two hours out of the game, delivering tidbits of a mobile title at some points. I actually took a look on the app store at one point to see if it was. While I was disappointed with the lack of content, it certainly is a testament to how good the content was that is included in the game, and hopefully Game Swing can offer up some free updates to the title to further extend the playtime.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Stikbold! was a joy from start to finish. Every point in the game felt fresh and new. However, right as I was becoming accustomed to the playstyle, the game threw out a curveball to shake things up a bit–and I love it for that. It seems like every detail was considered by Game Swing and it’s amazing to see a developer delve into every aspect of their game, even a game as silly as Stikbold! can be. The game feels like the developer took a sense of pride in it and every little detail adds up to whole that makes all of those details seem like the only option for the title.
I loved the content so much that I just wish there was more. It certainly seems like Game Swing isn’t out of creative ways to show off this nearly unknown sport to the world and I would have loved to see some of those ideas that were maybe left behind, having it flourish a bit more.
All in all, Stikbold! was a great time, even in its brevity. The execution showed great confidence from a relatively small developer, leading a unique game that was a blast to experience. While the game only last about two hours, those couple of hours were spent have a ton of fun, and with an asking price of $9.99, it’s kind of hard to complain. I would pick up Stikbold! even at full price.