Nintendo's hybrid console is literally built for local multiplayer, and there is no shortage of incredible competitive and cooperative examples to get everyone milking, racing, snipping or dancing. While FIFA or NBA2K have the simulation side sewn up for now, Danish developer Swing Studios brings its retro themed and completely zany sports title Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure Deluxe to the Switch with a few extras compared to its 2016 console release.
Assuming the role of dashing, happy go lucky Stikbold player Björn and his more serious team mate Jerome, you have to deal with the devistation of coming second place in a highly prestigious Stikbold tournament. Their tyrannical coach is understandably not happy, and vows to push the dynamic, ball hurling duo to superiority once again. No only that, but Björn's crush has been kidnapped. With regaining the highly coveted title of Stikbold champions and winning his damsels heart, Björn embarks on an adventure across sand, sea and even somewhere resembling hell.
In reality, Stikbold bears a striking resemblance to dodgeball, albeit with a few tweaks to the rules. Individuals, pairs or trios face off against each other in a circular arena, with the surviving team declared the winner. If a team mate is knocked out, you are able to bring them back with a trusty, if a little time consuming high five. Serving as a tutorial, coach will remind you how to use accuracy as well as defensive and offensive manoeuvres to be all conquering once again.
Despite Stikblod being a sports title, and a party game, for all intents and purposes it controls like a typical twin stick shooter. It works really well, being easy to pick up but offering a satisfying level of mastery, which can especially come in to play when facing off against other human opponents. Move your player with the left stick, aim with a combination of holding ZR and the right stick. In addition, there are environmental hazards to quickly avoid as well as structures to use as cover or other, level-themed objects to chuck. Learning more advanced moves such a catching an incoming projectile or being able to add curve to your throw sets you up to take on an increasingly tough array of rival teams, a variety of human and not so human bosses.
Spread across 12 stages and casual, professional or all star difficulty, the campaign might be short to some but there are three objectives to achieve in each level, which adds replayability. In the early exchanges, these are essentially incentives to learn the extra tricks, but become a mixture of utilising the environment, performing specific tasks with certain objects or avoid particular attacks. Rather than rehashing characters or stages, the number and variety in the campaign felt just right.
Some stage-specific hazards such as waves or a hippie's Winnebago are hilarious diversions, and later stages require strategy and concentration to recognise and counter enemy attack patterns. As well as being able to play the story mode cooperatively, your AI buddy when playing alone is pretty responsive, and if you get knocked out, you'll automatically switch players so you can revive your fallen teammate. Upon beating a stage, the NPCs become available to select in the game's multiplayer modes. While they don't have any specific special moves or other attributes, they are a fun and varied bunch.
Presentation wise, Stikbold's blocky, vivid world and instantly likeable range of wacky, fully voiced (and amusingly unintelligible) characters are exaggerated and expressive, if visually a bit on the basic side. While the amount of environments may be limited, they all have personality and specific themes, hazards and characters.
Where Stikbold shines is in its local, drop in/drop out multiplayer. Up to six human players can compete in teams or individually in straight up quick matches, one of four mini games or a random selection of everything in the form of new addition retro style game show Wheel of Rumpus. While it is possible to play alone and add up to three bots with four levels of difficulty, it's best to snap the Joy-Con off and get friends involved. The Wheel Of Rumpus can be set up to first to five, seven or nine points lasting roughly 20, 30 or 40 minutes.
Whatever you're tasked with or whomever you're team mate is, your goal is to win points to increase your own score. As a reward, you'll earn glamorous accessories to kit your character out with such as hats or sunglasses. Challenges include hitting someone with a particular object, avoid instakill water balloons and so on. In most instances, felled players can return to seek revenge and fling things at remaining opponents to keep everyone involved.
The mini-games are brief and objective-based but no less entertaining. Handyball is a team-based affair, with the side scoring the most goals in a set time emerging victorious. Pop Pop is a risk reward challenge, simultaneously trying to deplete your opponent's beach ball while keeping yours intact. Crate Escape allows you to lob rival's crates into the sea while safeguarding your own, and new mode Rainbow Rumpus is a no holds barred, last person standing affair. All of the multiplayer modes strike a great balance of being easy to understand and get started, but it's perfectly possible to lose a few hours to a tourney or two, if you're so inclined.
Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure Deluxe fully deserves a place among Nintendo Switch's already amazing line up of local multiplayer titles. It's accessible yet deceptively deep twin stick-based mechanics make for a decent amount of challenge in the solo campaign, even if it's a little on the short side. Even with no online, using bots or getting up to five other friends involved means that multiplayer matches are a joy and always thoroughly entertaining. Striking a great balance between cooperative and competitive play styles, Its combination of charming presentation and witty retro humour are sure to keep the laughs coming regardless of player demographic.