I’m going to make a generalization here, but I would not be surprised if the majority of people reading this review were not considered popular in school. In fact, I would posit that most of us were nerds. I certainly was, which is part of the reason that I loved video games so much. I was pudgy and fairly un-athletic, which made me a fair target for bullies.
Why do I bring this up? Well, for many, Super Dodgeball Brawlers recalls the terrifying world of gym class, where all that protected you from getting hit in face by the school bullies (legally!) were your own trembling, weak hands. Needless to say, it was with trepidation that I walked into the world of Super Dodgeball Brawlers. At any moment, I expected one of those elementary-school thugs to leap out of the game and throw a hard rubber ball at my Hot Pockets.
However, I was still looking forward to Brawlers, if only to take a little revenge on the enemies of my youth. I came away with a resounding “meh.” It’s not great, but it’s still better than being dunked in the toilet by four laughing jocks.
Super Dodgeball Brawlers is basically an update of the Game Boy Advance game Super Dodgeball Advance, and it shows. Everything looks like an Advance game, from the character sprites to the drab backgrounds to the weapon effects. The second screen only displays the current characters abilities in the most boring way possible, and has a special icon that you touch when you want to activate your team’s special power.
That being said, the graphics have their own lo-fi charm. They’re definitely not pretty, but they’re not terrible either and they get the job done. It would have been nice for them to put in a little more effort and maybe put in some 3-D stuff, or even some cooler special effects.
The sound and music also seems lifted from the Advance version. Having never played that game, I can’t verify for sure, but I would not be surprised if they used some of the same music tracks and sound effects. It’s definitely not bad, and it won’t get in the way of your experience. You’ll forget about the tracks as soon as you’re done playing.
Once again, I’m startled by the lack of effort put into the sound. The sound effects are all very lo-fi, there are no voice samples to speak of, and there’s very little variety in between teams. The only reason I’m grading it as high is because it all kind of works together. It’s a little disappointing, but it’s certainly not bad, and it doesn’t really detract from the experience like the graphics do.
The control fares better than the other categories, but that’s not to say it’s great. For instance, you tap the move button twice to run, the A button passes the ball, and B throws it at an opponent. The X and Y buttons punch and kick, respectively. However, instead of using the shoulder buttons more extensively, on defense, you use A to dodge and B to catch the ball. If you want to jump you have to hit A and B together.
I do have to say that the controls work fairly well, although I’ve had times where I’m running toward the line with the ball in my hands and I don’t get off my shot before I cross the line. In that case, you just drop the ball on the other side of the line and have to run away before someone picks it up and pegs you in the back of the head a couple of times.
One of the big draws of this game is melee combat, but did they need to take up two buttons with it? Considering that it’s not the biggest part of the game and can be turned off at will, I wish they would have used the button real estate to make the controls a little more intuitive.
There are a couple of modes of play: A basic tournament mode where you fight through most of the teams, a single Vs. match, and a free-for-all mode called Brawl. In the tournament mode your team can gain levels, shop for items, and equip those items to give your team an edge. It sounds really cool, but it takes too long to level your teams, and if you know how to play you can beat any team on any level of difficulty without straining yourself too hard.
One of the reasons for this is because of the game’s main draw, which also happens to be its downfall: Melee fighting. Your punches and kicks reach across the middle line, and it totally destroys the game.
For example: The opposing team has the ball right across the line. Your opponent runs to pick it up, so you kick them right when they get there. They fall backwards and lose 1 hit point. They get up and run to the ball again. You kick them again, and they fall backwards and lose 1 hit point. You can keep doing this over and over, especially against the computer, until the opposing player that you’ve been pummeling has 1 hit point left, and you can hit him at any time with the ball and he’s out.
Is it cheap? Yes. Does it work? All the time. Even if you’re a human player, you still have to contend with it. It’s ridiculous. You can turn off melee combat, but why even put it in if it’s so obviously broken?
A lot of my other problems have to do with the basic game of dodgeball, which doesn’t allow for a lot of strategy. It pretty much devolves into racing at the line and throwing the ball really hard, hoping that no one catches it, then getting back and trying to catch it yourself. However, that’s not the developers’ fault, so I’m not laying it at their doorstep.
Even with these problems, I still rated the gameplay kind of high. Why? There’s something inherently charming with this game. It has that weird quality that can’t be defined, one that negates a lot of the questionable decisions made in the creation of the game. There’s something just plain fun about throwing a rubber ball at someone’s face, I guess.Once you’ve beaten the game in the tournament mode, there’s really not much left to do. You can keep going back and leveling up your team more and more, but there’s really no point. You can get more items for your team, but there’s still no point to that either, as was mentioned before. Once you’re done with the single-player, you’re done.
There’s multiplayer in the game, with 8 people able to play off of the same cart. That’s good, and I’m sure it’s a blast to play with more people. I have no way of knowing, seeing as how none of the cool kids will hang out with me. It definitely seems like one of those games that would shine in multiplayer, but there are still all those nagging problems with the inherent gameplay.