If there was one word that made grade-school Leigh suddenly fake appendicitis on the floor in gym class, it was Dodgeball. So it was with great apprehension and a little resistance that I decided to have a look at Gamecock's Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball, developed by Blazing Lizard for a July release over Xbox Live Arcade.
Up to four players can compete together locally or co-op, and online multiplayer is for up to eight. You can also compete against three AIs all by your lonesome, so there are a lot of options - You get the idea.
So did I get creamed on the video game the same way I used to as a little geek?
Short answer is yes - but my team actually won one round, too, thanks to my heroics once my partner got knocked out. Gameplay's actually quite simple; you can jump and throw the ball from midair, dodge backward with the right shoulder button, or pick up the ball simply by running over it. There are several different pirates and several different ninjas to choose from, and each one has its own special move.
The character animations are really cute, and the different characters are all rather different (surprised?) One of the ninjas looks more like a samurai than a ninja, technically. I tried playing a female ninja who did one of those spread-armed crane-winged jumps in the air. One thing I didn't know is that zombie and robot teams will also be featured as unlockables, with sets of abilities all their own. When I played as a robot, the sprite I chose was able to stun both her enemies and allies via a bright laser beam from her chest.
Essentially, two teams scrabble for the ball and beat each other senseless with it until all the members of one team are out of stamina. You can recoup your stamina by catching the ball instead of being hit by it. Making things a little more wicked is the fact that you can perform normal attacks on your opponents with weapons to drain their stamina as well, or to keep them from reaching the ball so that your own teammate can get it.
Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball was actually supposed to be out earlier this year, but the rep told me the reason for the delay was to add additional game modes - for example, if you'd just like to play straight dodgeball without the ability to hit and be hit with the weapons, you can now do that.
I played a few rounds of two-on-two local against the reps, and had a blast. It's a little bit like the fun and chaos of Smash Bros. but without all the complexity. It's simple enough that even your non-gamer buddies would probably want to play it with you when they're all over for beers or something. Not that you'd need to drink to enjoy it, mind you, but it feels like a great party title.