REVIEW: Dodgeball Academia

Dodgeball Academia is a sports RPG game where you play dodgeball with superpowers. If any of that sounds interesting to you, you should definitely check it out.

Released: Steam, GOG, Switch
Type: Single-player
Genre: Sports, RPG
Developer: Pocket Trap
Publisher: Humble Games
Release date: 5 Aug, 2021

Intro

Dodgeball Academia is a sports RPG game about dodgeball with fantasy elements. You’ll play in a team of 1 to 3 players, fighting against up to 6 enemies. It offers both story and versus mode, but since there isn’t much to cover in the versus mode, this review will focus on the story, single-player mode instead.

Visuals

The combination between 3D backgrounds and 2D characters blends very well in the game. They both give a cute look, presenting the visuals with simple-looking 3D backgrounds and cartoonish 2D characters. The interface is also in sync with this style, giving you the same look while still showing everything that you need on a single screen without overloading you with too much information.

Story

The story lacks depth, but it’s enough to keep you going. That doesn’t mean that it is lacking in dialogues though. A lot of nonsensical, trivial dialogues are presented by the main cast to move the story forward. Each character also has a different personality, giving a unique view of their attempt at each struggle that they are facing. Their carefree, outgoing personality will surely give you smiles on your face.

The Game

Gameplay

As someone who does not know anything about dodgeball, Dodgeball Academia does a good job of explaining the rules. I’m not sure whether the game has the whole rule embedded in the game, but the gameplay is simple enough: you have to grab a ball, whether by catching a thrown ball or picking it up from the ground, and throw it to the enemy until they run out of HP while dodging their attacks that comes your way. Additional rules will be added as you play the game, adding more challenges to it.

The gameplay forces you to focus on one character. Although you’ll start playing solo, more players will be added to the screen, allowing you to play with up to three players on the court. However, switching characters can be annoying due to the unnecessary extra button that you need to press. I ended up playing as Otto, the main character, most of the time and only switched to another player whenever he needs healing.

Some modes will allow “dead” enemies to go to the side, allowing them to attack enemies on the field.

The lack of AI on your side makes the game more complicated than it should be. You’ll often play in a party of three, with you having to control all characters at the same time. Moving in any direction will also move all players at once, although some actions like charging your ultimate move bar and unleashing it can only be done by the active player on the front. However, all players on the enemy side don’t work the same way – they all can move separately from the other, allowing them to unleash attacks from all sides. This makes it hard to dodge their attacks, especially if you only focus on controlling the active player.

All characters have different stats and abilities. More characters will join your group as you progress, allowing you to create a party of three from 6 players. Each character can be played differently from the rest, whether it’s their ultimate move, mechanics, or even movement. However, the game hardly gives you a chance to try out other characters, and as someone who usually sticks to the first few characters that are given to you, the latter three characters that I got were buried in the roster. Sure, there might be one occasion where you are stripped off some characters, but that doesn’t change much since I ended up focusing more on the main character instead.

Another thing that I liked about this game is how they marked points of interest on the map.

Combat

Combat can be repetitive at times. The game seems to have inspiration for Pokémon in battles with it having enemies waiting on the premises to challenge you for a battle. However, the optional battles can be tedious due to their number and level. You only need to dish out the same strategy over and over to beat them, allowing you to get some money and exp. Although you don’t need to do these battles, you might risk being low-leveled in a certain area, and since the game has a fixed number of enemies before you reach a certain point in the game, you are forced to fight them all to make sure you are not underleveled.

The game can turn into a bullet hell sometimes. Some matches can have more than 5 balls in the court, giving more havoc to the field. It’s up to you whether you want to unleash all balls to the enemy side or keep them all but one not to get overwhelmed with all the dodging, but keeping the ball for a long time will make you lose its handle, allowing the enemy to grab it. Moreover, the ultimate move can be troublesome sometimes, especially since you need to dodge a barrage of balls that are thrown at you or risk getting a lot of damage.

Enemy’s attacks are varied, and so are their ultimate moves. Most of them will require you the dodge the balls they are throwing at you.

Both allies and enemies have different throwing patterns, whether it’s a straight one, a curved one, or others. Some throwing patterns are also hard to catch, and the difference in the throwing speeds between some characters can throw off your tempo if you want to catch everything. It helps to keep you focused in the game, especially after doing all those optional, repetitive battles.

Length and Difficulty

I finished the game in 14.2h. The game can be challenging at times, but it allows a quick button to replay the match if things go south. If you found it to be too difficult or too easy, you can also change the damage taken and/or damage dealt modifier through the options. Personally, I found the difficulty to be alright. Most fights are easy to beat while some might give you trouble, forcing you to retry the match several times before you can beat them.

Specs

Intel Core i5-9300H 2.40GHz, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650

Verdict

The game is a mix between Mario Tennis, Pokémon, and dodgeball. As someone who has been looking for another sports RPG game since the Mario Tennis in the Game Boy Color, this game does a good job of sating my thirst. It has the same core feature as that game, namely a story mode and the openly explorable areas. Sadly, the game doesn’t seem to support a co-op story mode despite offering up to three players on the field at the same time.

As a sports game, the game does a good job to make it unique and memorable. The core gameplay and additional fantasy elements blend well together while still giving you various mechanics to keep you engaged. It was satisfying to see new throwing styles and/or ultimate moves that are thrown at you, or even the whole chaos that happens due to having a lot of active balls at the same time. Still, I wish it doesn’t end this soon though – I surely will miss playing this game. I definitely would recommend playing this game if you like to play sports games with superpowers.

Written by
aquatorrent
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