Last year, Dot Arcade on the Wii U eShop simmered gameplay down into its simplest, retro arcade-like form and served it up with pizzazz. One of the three games available in that package has now busted out as Dodge Club Party, upping the number of players yet losing much of its flair in the process.
Dodge Club Party operates very much like its similarly named predecessor on Dot Arcade. Up to four players can be in control of different coloured squares in an open, 2D arena. Each vies to survive as a larger square, called the Fireball Wisp, begins to bounce around amongst them. Another object, called the Spark, will patrol the perimeter of the arena to keep players from hugging the edges too long.
The differences from the past game come in the above-mentioned multiplayer aspect, with a fifth player even able to join in with the GamePad. In standard mode with 1-4 players, everyone is seeking to survive as long as possible, with last one standing being the victor in 2-4 player skirmishes. There isn't really much that players can do to interfere with each other except to switch places when colliding (to an imaginative mind's eye, it can look like the players are pushing each other behind themselves). In 5-player mode, the fifth player can tap corners of the GamePad to send the Fireball Wisp toward that quadrant of the arena. The other four players must survive until the game timer counts down, with Player 5 scoring the victory if he or she can tag them all before then.
There are no special modes to make Dodge Club Party appealing to single players aside from high score addicts, and that gets reset every day. However, the easy as pie setup and instantly understandable gameplay makes it an option worth pulling out for some quick rounds at gatherings. No matter which way you play it, though, some are bound to be disappointed by the aesthetic overhaul in comparison to its predecessor.
One of the elements that made Dot Arcade stand out so brightly was the way it portrayed its games as being played on LED lightboards with old arcade cabinet-style art framing the sides. It was simple, yet really provided a unique classic style.
Dodge Club Party, on the other hand, has the look of any generic Atari game. The action is pretty colourful, sure, but any semblance of lights blinking across the screen is gone. Even the art that would have appeared along the sides of the game has disappeared, leaving only blackness. Could it not at least have been possible to have a mode that uses all of the available screen if there was to be nothing else there? The sound, at least, is a lovely mix of chiptunes and retro-style effects.
It might seem a bit snobbish to harp so much on Dodge Club Party's style. There's not much wrong with the game itself when it comes to some limited quick and easy party fun, and there are people who may really fall in love with its new breed of retro look (more power to them). It just feels that the creative force behind Dodge Club Party had something more special in the Dot Arcade collection. The spark is still around, too; just take a look at the joyful writing and art in the electronic manual. It's disappointing that it couldn't better be portrayed this time around in the actual game, either with aesthetics or added variety.