The great Stikbold duo of Björn and Jerome are reeling after having come second in the latest tournament. Their coach is especially none too happy about it, trying to whip the pair into shape so they can win yet another 1st place trophy to put on his wall. As they are training, the top competitor, and Björn’s crush, gets kidnapped by someone resembling the devil. To the coaches dismay, his team run off after the villain to save their biggest competitor.
It is a pretty out there story, and throws a lot of humour at you hoping something will stick. Unfortunately the humour didn’t work for me at all, and seems more geared towards a younger audience. It is also a story that just serves to get you from match to match, and to this end it works well. The bizarre nature of it also allows the game to put you in some interesting environments against some surprising opponents, which was a plus.
The audio is quite fun, and works perfectly with the game. Characters speak a delightful gibberish, with a surprising amount of variety in their voices. The thud of a ball hitting its target is extremely satisfying, and the pop hitting another player has is generic in a hilarious way. The stage sounds are good too, from car noises to animal sounds, it all works.
One of the highlights of the game is the music. Each stage has its own theme that fits the look perfectly. From the title song that is simple in a fun way, the beach stage having a guitar with that surfer twang to it, to the hippy stage that is heavy with acoustic riffs, it all just sounds delightful.
Visually the game was ok at best. The character designs are rather ugly, with a real blocky look to them and playing up stereotypes to a ridiculous degree. Because of the stereotyping, the characters came off as just visual gags that fall very flat, rather than anything interesting.
The environments fair better, with each stage having a unique look to them, with a cohesive style that ties them all together. As different as each stage looks, they all still feel they belong in this game. The colours are vibrant and really pop off the screen. Graphically it won’t win any awards, but the simplistic style looks great, and adds to the enjoyment quite a bit.
As for the performance, it runs mostly well on simplistic stages, but as soon as you get one that is rather busy then you do encounter slowdowns. In a game that requires precision and quick reflexes, these slowdowns cause a lot of frustration. In my time playing 6 player matches, I found that many of the guests got annoyed with the slowdowns, which ended up limiting our stage choices considerably. This caused people to tire of the game a lot quicker than they would have otherwise.
Stikbold is essentially a game of dodgeball. You and your team battle others to be the last team standing. A ball will be placed in the middle of a stage, and you must get a hold of the ball to throw it at your opponents. After a hit, stars will appear over the head of that character, and if you hit them again before the stars disappear then they are out. You will also have to battle obstacles that are unique to each stage, each being able to put you in that star state.
Mechanically, the game controls like a twin stick shooter. You move around with the left stick, all the while aiming with the right. As you go to throw the ball, an arrow will appear which allows you to line up your shot, then you fire away at your target. There is a dive you can do, which can help you get to a ball quickly, or help you dodge an incoming projectile.
You can play with up to 6 people, and that is really where the game shines. The six player games I had to test the game out with consisted of four adults and two younger children, and the simplistic mechanics made it fun for all. The twin stick shooting was difficult for some to grasp, as dealing with two sticks independently is inherently difficult for people who don’t play games, but those players just threw the ball where they were running. Allowing you to throw the ball in the direction you are running is a small thing that actually turned out to be one of the games most accessible features.
Stikbold is a lot of fun with a bunch of friends in small doses. If you can get together to play with people regularly then the value is more than there to part with your hard earned cash. If you intend to play this alone however, then that changes everything. The single player game hasn’t got much meat to it, and in that instance I would suggest you save your money. This is a party game, and needs that environment to thrive.