Back in school, dodgeball was a game that I always enjoyed, but never really got the opportunity to play more than a couple of times a year. It’s been a fair few years since I’ve played it properly, but I can’t say that I’ve ever played a proper video game of dodgeball, at least, not one that isn’t a simplistic flash game. Enter, Stikbold. According to the developers, Stikbold is a game played by every child in Scandinavia, and although it has a lot of variations, it always has a few common themes, which Swing Games have endeavoured to stick to, in order to deliver an experience that stays true to the inspiration, while offering some excellent dodgeballing for everyone else.
It may seem to most outside of Scandinavia, myself included, that the game of dodgeball isn’t really that complicated. Stikbold, however, seems to be. Not so much that it becomes a pain in the arse to remember all the rules, but definitely enough to keep it a lot more interesting than just a simple dodgeball game. For instance, there are certain rounds where you can pick up more than just a rubber ball to throw at your opponents. Jellyfish hanging around can stun your opponent into staying still just long enough for you to lob a stinger right into their face, which, when it comes off, is always a fantastic feeling. There are also obstacles to avoid, such as adoring fans which may run onto the field of play and grab you, proclaiming their love for you. While it’s funny when it happens to your opponents, you’ll want to be on your guard to protect yourself from these leeches, as they can really make you vulnerable.
There’s more to the game than just playing one-off little matches too, as it comes with a decent little campaign that is really fun and quirky. You’ll play as Björn and Jerome as they try to rescue the hot “honey” they seem to love, which involves getting into many different stikbold matches with various opponents, all of which are unique and enjoyable, making the game a real pleasure to play through. Doing this also lets you unlock a whole lot of characters to use in quick play, and they’re all well designed and different enough from each other to let you see some real variety in your stikbolders.
Playing through it, there’s really very little that can be said against it. Everything is kept simple and is explained very well, so you never feel overloaded with information, nor do you feel underwhelmed with what is available to you. You’re able to scamper around, pounce on the ball and toss it at your opponents with ease, and really fluidly. You never miss a beat, and even with games like FIFA that aim to provide a fluid football simulation can’t offer quite as much fluidity as what Swing Games have developed.
There is one thing that lets Stikbold down though, and it is a gaping hole, especially in this day and age – there is no online multiplayer. It does have local multiplayer, so when it’s on console it’ll be decent when you have a few friends over, but without online play, it makes it a little dull once you’ve completed the main campaign. There doesn’t appear to be any notion of bringing online play to the game, which is seriously disappointing, as it would give players a whole new dimension, and with the eSports market growing, it could definitely carve out a little niche for itself, just like Rocket League did.
Actually, to further that point, without the online play, the game is dreadfully short. It does have the campaign, but it’s not very long, and after that, if you’re not someone that enjoys having people over, then the game will soon become very boring.
Overall, Stikbold is an interesting game. What it sets out to do, it does very well, and if you know what you’re buying, then you’ll be ecstatic with what is a brilliantly executed game. But the bits missed out are seriously disappointing. Being able to lob beehives, jellyfish or balls at your friends would be terrific fun, and although you can do that if you invite them around, it’d be nice to have the option to do it while sat in front of the PC. It’s probably worth getting anyway, but if you’re more of a single-player guy, then this game won’t offer you too much.