Whilst you wouldn’t typically associate sports with RPG gameplay, it actually makes for a surprisingly effective combination. Heck, you’ve only got to look at Golf Story or Captain Tsubasa to see how it can be done right, whilst the upcoming Sports Story looks to really push the boundaries with its unique and varied take on the formula. Basically, the amalgamation of genres can make for some really fun gameplay experiences, with the newly released Dodgeball Academia certainly following that trend with its exciting adventure.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Coming from developer Pocket Trap and publisher Humble Games, Dodgeball Academia tells the story of the youngster Otto who has just enrolled in the titular academy of dodgeball. His ultimate goal? To be the best dodgeball player of ALL time. He won’t be alone in this journey though, with some of the friends he makes in the school bringing their strengths to his team, ensuring there’s flexibility and nuance in their skillset. Dodgeball is never plain and simple in the world of video games, after all, with all sorts of fancy tricks at each character’s disposal.
Whilst Dodgeball Academia doesn’t go too over the top with its story, it’s packed with enough charm and excitement to keep players fully invested in each of the game’s episodes. There’s some great writing on show throughout that fits the quirky vibe of the tale perfectly, whilst the characters you meet are equally as weird (but in that lovable kinda way). It’s not a massively deep story as far as RPGs are concerned, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find yourself totally hooked into its twists and turns.
“Whilst Dodgeball Academia doesn’t go too over the top with its story, it’s packed with enough charm and excitement to keep players fully invested in each of the game’s episodes.”
Key RPG features such as exploration, side quests, changing up equipment, and boosting stats are present in the game, so there’s plenty for players to invest themselves in on that front. Pocket Trap have done a good job in making a world that’s fun to uncover too, so taking in all of your surroundings and completing the tasks that it offers is always rewarding. The only caveat is that there isn’t a whole lot of variety to the core gameplay experience outside of simply playing dodgeball – it isn’t rich in extravagant mini-games or over-the-top side quests, with the sport itself making up the bulk of the experience. It’s fine, especially since the dodgeball itself is a lot of fun, but I do think a bit more variety here and there would’ve gone a long way in making Dodgeball Academia even more enjoyable to play.
Of course, Dodgeball Academia is based around dodgeball, so the most important aspect of the game is the art of throwing, dodging, and catching balls in epic battles. I’m happy to report that it’s a hell of a lot of fun to do in-game too, with some straightforward controls making it easy to get to grips with the basics of the sport.
“Key RPG features such as exploration, side quests, changing up equipment, and boosting stats are present in the game, so there’s plenty for players to invest themselves in on that front.”
Each team (which can range between one, two, or three players) has a set amount of HP in a match, with the goal being to reduce your opponent’s health to zero with some well-placed dodgeball throws. These are easy enough to perform with some quick button presses, whilst charged shots can also be hit by holding the button down. Players are also nimble when it comes to their defensive manoeuvres, with catches and counterattacks keeping each match flowing nicely. Everything you already know about dodgeball is easily done in-game, with the action feeling fluid and easy to get to grips with.
Things are NEVER simple in the world of video games though, with Dodgeball Academia introducing plenty of unique mechanics to spice up the sport. For one, players have Balltimate abilities that can unleash some super powerful hits on foes when charged up, with each character in the game having their own unique variation. Speaking of characters, players will be able to change up their team with the characters that join their adventure during the main game, with each bringing different powers to give you the upper hand over foes. Some of these powers are simple things such as having more effective counter attacks or being able to hit foes with more shots at once, but there are also things like fire or ice attacks that add a bit more pizazz to your actions.
“Players have Balltimate abilities that can unleash some super powerful hits on foes when charged up, with each character in the game having their own unique variation.”
It all comes together to make for a dodgeball experience that’s exciting and unpredictable, with things like some hazardous arenas and erratic shots from enemies certainly keeping players on their toes. Dodgeball is a very quick-paced sport too, so it’s not as if matches last all that long – they can be over quickly if you’re particularly effective with your shots. It all adds to the excitement of the game and ensures that encounters with foes never grow boring throughout the roughly ten-hour runtime. It’s simple but effective, with the wilder aspects of the powers of your party complementing the straightforward nature of the sport.
Whilst the dodgeball antics of Dodgeball Academia are enjoyable throughout, they do come with a couple of caveats. For one, it’s very heavy on timing-based actions, with the player having to react quickly if they want to avoid incoming attacks or catch an opponent off guard. This isn’t really a flaw, but it does mean there’s no real time to rest. You can expect to be your toes throughout if you want to beat some of the tougher opponents of the game, with each battle bringing with it a much quicker pace than some of the other RPG-based sports titles out there.
Speaking of which, Dodgeball Academia can have some pretty rough difficulty spikes. These seemingly come from nowhere too, with some tough battles with powerful foes sandwiched between the easier regular battles. Nothing is impossible in Dodgeball Academia and even underpowered teams can win thanks to the game’s emphasis on timing-based action, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself beaten down from nowhere during some of the trickier encounters.
“Nothing is impossible in Dodgeball Academia and even underpowered teams can win thanks to the game’s emphasis on timing-based action…”
Thankfully, it’s not something that ruins the experience, with the motto ‘practice makes perfect’ certainly proving important when playing Dodgeball Academia. All in all, the dodgeball is as fun as the RPG mechanics, with everything blending together to make for a memorable sports adventure. You can even play in local multiplayer battles too, with the frantic but accessible gameplay complementing competitive showdowns.
It also just so happens to look fantastic in-game, with the stylish 3D environments and quirky 2D character designs certainly giving the game its own distinct and colourful vibe. I was a big fan of the aesthetic, with it reminding me of something you’d see on Cartoon Network (and I mean that in the best way possible). It was guilty of having a few long load times and I did see a few framerate stutters here and there, but it’s otherwise a very slickly presented experience.
Dodgeball Academia blends RPG and dodgeball mechanics in an enjoyably stylish manner, with the combination making for a super fun gameplay experience. I had a really good time seeing Otto’s tale unfold, whilst the varied dodgeball mechanics and unpredictable opponents ensure that the action remains exciting from start to end. I didn’t think the sport of dodgeball could have so much depth, but the range of abilities and arenas on offer ensured it never grew tiresome when playing.
There were a few things that could’ve seen improvement, such as the lack of variety outside of dodgeball, the harsh difficulty spikes, and the occasional technical hitch. None of these issues stopped Dodgeball Academia from being a heck of a lot of fun to play though, with it standing tall as yet another memorable sporting-RPG hybrid to grace the Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Pocket Trap
Publisher: Humble Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC