Developer: Fun Punch Games
Release Date: 30/01/2018
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PC, Mac
I never got to play dodgeball when I was at school, but after seeing it a lot in popular media (go Average Joe’s!) I’ve got an appreciation for the sport and its rules. Some video games have tackled the concept already but Strikers Edge, the first release from the team at Fun Punch Games, does something a bit different – they make you face off against each other in a battle that uses dodgeball-like rules but involves launching deadly weapons at each other. Neat, huh?
It makes for a fun little experience, but one that demands multiple players if it’s going to be played at its best.
In a nutshell, Strikers Edge plays a lot like dodgeball. There’s one big difference though – rather than launching somewhat harmless balls at your opponent, you’re throwing sharp and vicious weapons their way. It’s a simple case of taking your opponent’s health all the way down by pelting them with projectiles, all whilst dodging or blocking any that are coming your way.
That really is putting it in a nutshell though, because there’s a bit more to it than that. There’s a big focus on defensive play for example, with the player able to block up to three attacks in quick succession with a simple button press. There’s a power bar in place which determines when you’re able to block again though, so you’ve got to time everything perfectly. Alternatively, you could just dodge-roll around the arena which will also protect you from attacks, though you’ve got to be careful – you don’t want to leap across the arena without a care in the world because you might leave yourself open to any extra incoming attacks.
Of course, you won’t just be playing defensively, with a decent amount of tricks up your sleeve for your offensive skills too. Everything is controlled in a ‘twin-stick shooter’ kind of way, with the player controlling their movement with one stick and the aim and trajectory of their attacks with the other. It’s a mechanic that just about anyone would be familiar with, but it takes some work and a real sense of precision to really master it in Strikers Edge. Your opponents will be using the environment and swiftly dashing out of reach of your attacks, so you’ve got to be a bit clever in where you place them if you want to catch them off guard.
However, there are eight characters to play as in total and each have their own special power-ups that can be used to their advantage in the arena. It might be something like sending a highly-charged projectile your opponent’s way that’ll act as an electrifying obstacle in the environment, using a chain to pull your enemy into range of an open shot, or even (in the deadly Ninja’s case) a teleportation attack that’ll zip you over to your opponent’s side of the area to quickly hit them with a sly melee shot. Alternatively, a character’s special skill might be a defensive one, such as being able to deflect a projectile back at an opponent or even healing whilst blocking.
There’s a bit of a learning curve in place to learn the ins-and-outs of each character’s abilities, not only for when you want to use them but also for when your opponent does too. Knowing what a character is capable of is imperative to success in Strikers Edge, and I’ve been caught out on more than a few occasions; how was I supposed to know the Valkyrie’s attack was going to leave a trail of danger behind it? Now I do though, I know not to let her cut off too much of my side of the arena.
Whilst there’s a fair amount of strategy to the game, there’s a lot of fun found in its simplicity. Sure, you’ll learn a whole variety of different ways to approach the game and you’ll also have to be switched on to counter anything your opponent might try throwing (literally) your way, but there’s no doubting that anyone could pick it up and play it with ease. It’s just good old-school fun, especially when played in multiplayer with friends.
Strikers Edge features both online and offline multiplayer, allowing you to face off against strangers all over the world or friends locally. There are two different ways to play, with you able to face off in one-on-one showdowns or two-on-two team battles. As you can imagine, the two-on-two battles can become incredibly hectic, but the strategy and co-ordination involved ended up making the mode my favourite to play – there’s certainly something mightily satisfying about forcing other players to fall into your traps of synchronised projectile launching.
I played a lot of the game in local play with friends, but spent a fair bit of time online too. This could be a bit of a mixed bag – whilst the network code was good and the matches I played were stable, there were a few occasions where I just wasn’t able to find any other players. It wasn’t an extremely common occurrence, but there were definitely times where I’d be waiting for minutes on end just to find a match. It’s a little frustrating, especially since the game’s longevity is built around facing off against real-life players.
When you do get in a match it’s a lot of fun though, especially when facing off against players of a similar skill level. I had plenty of tense and exciting showdowns, with some matches going all the way down to the wire. That being said, I also had plenty of matches where I steamrolled opponents, or, on the flipside, got absolutely dominated myself. It’s just further proof that despite being simplistic in design and easy to pick up and play, there’s a lot of depth to the experience that needs mastering if you want to be the best.
There is a single player mode in place as well, though it’s restricted to the Story Mode. It’s actually a neat, if short-lived, addition to the game – each of the eight characters have their own little tale to tell that sees you working through four different battles. You’re not going to get too invested in the story and it’s clear that Strikers Edge’s main focus is on the multiplayer competitive side, but it’s still something nice to toy around with to try and hone your skills.
One thing I really liked about Strikers Edge was it’s 16-bit style old-school aesthetic. I’ve always been a fan of great sprite work and environment design, and everything is on point here. All of the characters look great, whilst the environments you battle across are full of personality too. My personal favourite had to be the two ships where you battle across the sea, though a few of the others stood out too. I was a little disappointed there were only four environments in total, but it didn’t take anything away from the game – here’s hoping for some DLC in the future to address this…
Strikers Edge offers an enjoyable competitive multiplayer experience, with its accessible nature making it easy for anyone to pick up and play – only those who spend plenty of time with it and learn the ins-and-outs of each character will master it, though.
My only worry is just how active the online community will be. I’ve struggled to find matches on a few occasions so far, and whilst it’s possible to play it locally with friends, sometimes that isn’t always an option. It’s where the meat and bones of the experience will be found, so the community (or lack of one) will make or break the game in the end.
For now though, Strikers Edge is a fun little game and that I’d easily recommend multiplayer-action fans take a look at.