Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure Preview | MOUSE n JOYPAD


Boy, talk about not judging a book by its cover. When I first downloaded Stikbold!, I was expecting a straight-up sports game with a cartoonish aesthetic. What I got instead was more of an adventure game filled with kidnapping, betrayal, love, and a giant white whale that tries to swallow you whole. Yes, you heard me right; Moby Dick makes a cameo in this game.


The game may start off as an ordinary sports game, but it goes to some pretty crazy places later on.

So what the hell is Stikbold! (the exclamation points makes it sound important) anyway? Well, it IS a sports game of sorts. The sport in question is called Stikbold, which is essentially a Scandinavian version of dodgeball. You play as one or two characters in a circle-shaped court and proceed to pummel your opponents with a dodgeball. When you knock out all your opponents, you win a round, and the first to three wins the match.

I started playing Stikbold! in story mode by myself, which had me control the two main protagonists Björn and his teammate Jerome, two professional Stikbold players preparing for the big upcoming tournament. While my teammate and I started out by simply brushing up on our Stikbold skills for the upcoming tournament (simultaneously serving as a tutorial), it quickly escalated into a kidnapping scenario where our rivals were kidnapped by the Devil himself and taken to God knows where. Björn has a bit of a crush on one the rivals, a woman by the name of Heidi Starbow, and is compelled to pursue her kidnapper and save her.

From there, most of the rest of the story is basically about Björn and Jerome tracking down the Devil and getting Heidi and her teammate back in time for the Stikbold tournament. Along my journey I encountered an assortment of odd characters, including a rogue band of hippies who were convinced we were out to steal their “special honey”, a family of bikers Björn and Jerome inadvertently pissed off, a Captain Ahab-like character (accompanied by the aforementioned white whale), and even an old Stikbold legend.


Can you defeat the onslaught of lifeguards?

I nearly faced off against each one of these characters in a game of Stikbold. However, they were all far from being your typical Stikbold matches; certain obstacles and hazards often got in the way. For example, there are a couple of levels that take place on the beach where there are crabs that latch onto you in order to slow you down, and waves that come crashing down that can stun you for a couple of seconds, giving your opponents an opportunity to knock you out. Of course, these hazards can be used to your advantage as well, provided your opponents aren’t the ones creating them.

Besides the Stikbold matches, there are also a number of bosses you’ll encounter. During these fights, you won’t necessarily be on an even playing field, and rules will change up for a bit. When you encounter the whale, for example, you’ll be forced to dodge his attacks and avoid getting swallowed whole, as opposed to just dodging balls like you normally do. It’s a nice way to mix things up, as playing game after game of Stikbold would get boring after a while.

Now while the story mode sounds like a crazy but good time (which it is overall), it feels like it’s over too quickly. There are only twelve levels, and I was able to beat all of them within a couple of hours on the easiest difficulty. Now there are higher difficulties you can play on, as well as optional challenges you can complete on each stage, but I still feel like the game could’ve gone on a little longer than it did. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to go on for many hours, but I still wish it had been longer.


Beware of the White Whale, lest ye want to be swallowed whole by the beast!

One other gripe I had was with the curve shots you can perform if you throw a ball a far enough distance. Basically, you can use the right analogue stick to curve your ball’s trajectory, provided you throw it far enough to allow enough time to steer it. The idea is that if your target is behind cover or moving at a fast pace, you can adjust your shot in order to hit them if throwing your ball in a straight line just won’t get the job done. The problem is that they’re very hard to pull off and the game spends no time going over the technique during the tutorial, only briefly mentioning it during a loading screen between one of the levels. What made it more frustrating was the fact that some of the optional challenges were to perform a successful curve shot, which proved too difficult for me to perform. Maybe I just needed more time to master it, but with a game this short, you’d think that it wouldn’t take too long to do so.

Despite my issues with the curve shot, though, I actually enjoyed most of the other gameplay mechanics. They’re simple and intuitive, but still allow the game to be challenging. I like how there’s no aiming assistance (at least none that I noticed), so I felt like every direct hit was earned. I also like the ability to catch incoming balls by dodging into them at just the right moment; this was one of the more advanced techniques I was able to master fairly quickly.

It’s also worth mentioning that this game is a lot more fun when you’re playing with a friend. While playing single player, your teammate is controlled by an AI that mostly just passes you the ball or makes the occasional shot, often missing the opponent on the more difficult levels. Having a friend by your side, however, makes matches feel like much more of a team effort, which is when the game truly shines. It’s pretty clear that the developers created this game to be played with other people.

Besides the main story mode, there are also local multiplayer matches you can play with up to three other players. You can either play free-for-all or team-vs-team, both of which work in the way you’d expect them to. Both modes can host up to six opponents, four of which can be players (any other opponents can be filled in by bots). You can also tweak the rules and add/remove certain stage hazards from each match so you can play any way you want. Sadly, I didn’t have much of a chance to play the multiplayer too much, and unfortunately, I only have two Xbox One controllers, so I wasn’t able to experience these modes to their full potential. However, I did have fun with the few matches I played with my friend, and I think I’d enjoy it even more if I only had a couple more controllers.

Overall my first impressions are mostly positive with this title. It plays pretty well, it’s challenging, it has a quirky charm to it, and it’s best enjoyed with a friend by your side. If this sounds like your cup of tea, you can check it out when it comes out next month.