Breaking away from its custom of pumping out pinball titles at an impressive rate, Zen Studios has decided to bring Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball back to life but with a much snappier name. The first iteration saw release on PC three years ago and now Switch owners can join in with minimal differences from the PC counterpart.
Disco Dodgeball - REMIX is a first-person competitive sports game that relies primarily on online play. Up to eight players battle it out in TRON-style arenas with 21 gameplay modes to choose from including classic Dodgeball, Grand Prix (yes, you read that correctly) and our personal favourite, Elimination. We rally up some of our gaming buddies to take the majority of the modes for a spin, and although there’s plenty to choose from, only a handful manage to hold our interest.
Rushing to grab one of the randomly generated balls that crop up in each of the ten or so arenas and lobbing them at the opposing players is a different and entertaining way to play, but once the penny drops and the art is mastered, trying to figure out what you’re meant to be doing (and when) starts to become increasingly frustrating. One mode has us all scrambling to the elusive golden ball to then throw it at one of four panels marked with a big X that dangle from the middle of the ceiling. Simple on paper, but when we find that none of us is scoring any points because we need to hit the blank side of the panel, it becomes a frustrating face-to-palm situation.
Sadly, many of the design decisions have us scratching our heads in confusion, most notably when it comes to the matchmaking facilities. Granted, the developer has created a seamless lobby that allows for drop-in/drop-out gameplay, but hosting a private room isn’t straightforward and the only option is to piggy-back and invite fellow Switch players until everyone is present. Hosting a dedicated Discord voice comms room makes things more accessible, functional and fun albeit still confusing in many of the modes.
If you’re a fan of customisation then you’re in luck as the game offers it in droves. Completing single-player and online challenges – such as levelling up or performing a set amount of special moves – and the game dishes out nuts, bolts and other mechanical bits-and-bobs. Grabbing a certain amount of parts sees us crafting all sorts of items to pimp our bot out with. From changing the wheels to having the option to plonk a set of antlers on the dodgeball-wielding robot, having a funny-looking bot whizzing around the arenas doesn’t provide too much incentive to grind.
There’s single-player content and while there’s an Arcade, Training and a Challenges mode to play, all of these don’t bring much in the way of incentive to come back and revisit once a few minutes have been spent exploring them. Still, a leaderboard for every mode (including the solo content) is readily accessible and is sure to attract those wanting to stay on top and screenshot them holding first place for their friends to see. There's also a split-screen option for couch multiplayer for those wanting to break away from the online side of things. Again, it works fine but there isn't enough there to draw the player back in.
Disco Dodgeball Remix successfully ticks some boxes. Smooth performing multiplayer? Tick. Customisation? Tick. Effective power-ups? Kind of tick. But apart from having a mediocre online offering that provides a light amount of entertainment when there's a group of mates playing in a chat room for company, there isn’t much else to experience.
The bright, flashing lights - and admittedly catchy thumping club music - coupled with an eye-watering amount of modes and game/bot customisation isn’t quite enough to dress up what essentially feels like a promising idea that’s vastly undercooked. A little more time in the oven - and with a more appetising and interesting main course - and Disco Dodgeball could have been a much stronger option on the small, but rapidly growing menu of online-focused games for Switch.