Ever since Super Dodge Ball for NES, I've loved dodgeball games but there aren't many of them so let's give Dodgeball Academia a go.
Dodgeball Academia has you play as a smirky kid named Otto who goes on an adventure within the titular campus which is exclusively focused on training folks to become dodgeball superstars. This may sound like the premise of a Ben Stiller movie but it's surprisingly full of heart as well as silly shenanigans as you'll meet a large and diverse cast of dodgeball players who act as your rivals, friends, and sometimes; even both! Thankfully, this quirky world is presented with a beautifully stylish Saturday morning cartoon-like aesthetic that's quite fetching and each character really stands out as memorable whether they're an NPC, generic opponent, friend, or rival.
The structure of Dodgeball Academia could best be described as an RPG with dodgeball matches replacing a traditional battle system. The campaign involves taking on your fellow students while levelling up, unlocking new gear, buying and finding heal items, completing quests, and progressing the story via the main missions. Meanwhile, the dodgeball gameplay is simple and intuitive as you run around a small court while either avoiding or catching incoming balls then throwing them at your opponents. You can do so with regular throws, charged throws, or a character-specific special move once its meter is charged. You play on a team as well although you don't really play simultaneously with them as you swap your active character on the fly which, in my opinion, takes a bit away from the fun.
Although the dodgeball gameplay is intuitive and quite simple, I was expecting a bit more robustness and challenge. As it is, hit boxes are unpredictable, actually landing hits feels rather random, and there are certain strategies that you can exploit in order to almost guarantee victory. For example, I tried hoarding all of the balls whenever I could then sent them all soaring into my foes which tripped them up something fierce. Also, the court is extremely small which makes it feel claustrophobic when there are a lot of players involved.
Aside from that, progressing through the story-based campaign is still enjoyable, especially considering how many unlockables there are to discover. Whether you collect an accessory that gives you the upper-hand in the next tricky match or complete a quest that results in a humorous scene, it makes for quite a rewarding RPG formula. That being said, I found the dialogue to eventually become a bit drawn-out and unnecessary so I caught myself skipping huge chunks of character banter which is something that I don't normally do.
I should mention that Dodgeball Academia includes a competitive local multiplayer mode although my gaming chum and I didn't really have much fun with it. So, I'm confident in saying that Dodgeball Academia is one of those rare games that's more fun playing solo than with friends. The variety of opponents in the story mode are simply more interesting than challenging a friend on a level playing field.
Dodgeball Academia's campaign that's full of distinct characters and rewarding RPG elements is quite a treat to progress through. With that in mind, I thought the core dodgeball gameplay was too needlessly limiting to provide consistently engaging gameplay.
- + Enjoyable campaign that's filled with quirky characters and fun unlockables
- + Fantastic cartoonish graphical style
- + Playing dodgeball is intuitive
- - Dodgeball gameplay is held back by repetition, small courts, and lack of challenge
- - Dialogue can be a bit drawn-out
- - Multiplayer isn't all that fun