From the beautifully stylized block graphics (a great choice that just works) to the upbeat and retro sounding soundtrack. ‘Stikbold!’ was quite obviously inspired by the arcade games of yore. It echoes the games that inspired it; the story is nonsense, its graphics are bright and colourful, its music is light-hearted and even its simple to learn but difficult to master controls.
Best of all these attributes are worn like a badge of honour!
There is a real sense of joy and happiness running through the game and to be honest it really is a breath of fresh air to play.
Although the game seems ridiculously simple; it controls like a twin-stick shooter. You pick up a ball (or an arena obstacle) and throw it at your opponent, hit them once and they’ll become dazed, hit them during this they’re out! Bad news is you and your teammate can only take two hits as well.
Once you start playing, the game drip feeds you tips, soon you realise that you can catch what is thrown at you with some good timing and you can even push your opponents! All of a sudden the game-play opens up and in a way this hidden depth reminds me of ‘Virtua Tennis’! It means that every match becomes a somewhat tactical affair, if you can use a combination of the environment, the controls and the balls as well as master the initially simple control scheme nuances then you will win most of your matches.
In saying this however there just isn’t enough nuance or depth – but like every good 7/10 game (spoiler alert!) it transcends its short-comings because every aspect of it is competent and enjoyable.
‘Stikbold!’ has its very own niche, the readers of Obscure Sports Quarterly, and boasts a story that is energetically and humourously told. If you can dodge cliche, you can dodge negative criticism and to be honest the story just works, it made me laugh almost all the way through and that is more of an emotional response than many “better” games have gotten from me.
The game is set in the 1970s and the players are put into the sneakers of Bjorn and Jerome on their quest to win the Stikbold World Championship after their shock defeat the year before. However just as the grand final is about to begin, their opponents are kidnapped by Satan himself! DISASTER!
The short story mode sees the hapless heroes proceed on a quest to track down their opponents, rescue them from Satan, get them to the Stikbold final, beat them and maybe win some love! All this to the derision of their Coach, who just wants to accept the trophy by default!
The story mode is flat out bonkers, it really is batshit crazy – you will go from a practice room to hell and back again within the course of an hour. The teams you face and the arena’s you’ll play them in all have real personality. Every arena has unique obstacles and dangers from the roundabout with a runaway camper van to the oil rig with whirlpools, when you think you’ve seen everything ‘Stikbold!’ has to offer it surprises you again and again. And while there are a few difficulty spikes in the story mode, it should pose very little challenge to even inexperienced gamers. It is a tutorial mode albeit a well put together tutorial, but its primary function is to prepare you for the real game…
…the local multiplayer mode (it should be noted that there is no online options at all here) when played with a friend it gains a whole new lease of life. The frustrations that cause the difficulty spikes are no longer relevant and the game is just plain fun to play – often the soundtrack is drowned out by shrieks of laughter. It is also, unfortunately, short-lived.There just isn’t enough variation in games to sustain interest beyond a few hours and bursts when you have friends around.
And that’s a shame because the presentation and gameplay are brilliant – ‘Stikbold’ has more identity than any AAA title I could care to mention…
…I just wish there was more of the actual game.