This title was reviewed on Xbox One, but is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Despite the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series seemingly being long-dead after not-so-successful revivals, I still have the occasional hankering for the fast-paced musical rhythm game. The genre is almost universal in how many settings it can be placed in. You have the conventional, like the aforementioned Guitar Hero, to the more wacky, like Donkey Konga, to the more gritty, like KickBeat. Here’s one I didn’t expect though, a sports-musical-rhythm game. Super Dodgeball Beats takes the rhythm game genre and puts it smack-bang in the middle of a dodgeball court. Now, as dodgeball legend Patches O’Houlihan once said: “If you can dodge crap games, you can dodge a ball.” So does Super Dodgeball Beats scratch the rhythm game itch or does it cause P.E related PTSD?
The art-style of Super Dodgeball Beats is pretty damn good: Opting for a seemingly hand-drawn, anime style, the visuals are bolstered by solid visual variety and animations. If you can peel your eyes away from the gameplay (more on that later), you’ll see neat animations and quirks, which just shows the amount of effort that has been put into the game. Each team you fight has its own visual motif, whether it be a set of Chinese cat statues, or even a parody of the Power Rangers. There’s very little, if anything, to fault about the visuals here.
The weakest part of the game is definitely the story, largely because it’s almost non-existent. The gist is that you get pulled into a dodgeball tournament for a cash prize, and that’s it. The only reason I mention it is because it’s book-ended by really nice manga-style cutscenes, complete with a black and white style and even the panels that make it seem like it has been ripped from the pages of a manga.
As a rhythm game, the gameplay here is both simple and engaging. It is more similar to Kickbeat than Guitar Hero, with it using the four face buttons on your controller. Each member of your team corresponds to a face button, with the top character corresponding to Y, the bottom to A and so on. The aim of each level is to out-perform the enemy team, and this is done by timing your button presses as rings close around your teammates, with you scoring higher or lower depending on how well-timed your button presses are. There are some variants of moves too, with you sometimes having to hold the face button down until a ring fills, or use the left analog stick to move an arrow between two teammates. At the end of each song, the winning team does a special move which wipes the losing team off screen in spectacular fashion. The levels get harder as you go through the game, and by the end the last few songs get really intense, so the gameplay is almost always engaging.
The game has a fair amount of content as well. There is a large variety of songs to choose from, as well as a ton of different teams to battle. The story mode is of a good length too, and allows you to unlock new mascots to fill your fourth team slot, each one providing a unique ability. You also have a variety of skills to unlock, all of which screw your opponents’ performances up, whether it be sending a giant face of your mascot flying across the screen or turning the enemy team to stone unless they get a perfect hit. While there is a fair amount of content here, the gameplay can get repetitive, as with most rhythm games. As long as you play it in short bursts though you should be alright.
Considering this is a rhythm game, you’d hope the music would be solid. Luckily, it is. Each of the game’s tracks are varied, and range in intensity depending on how far into the game you are. Some of them genuinely got me pumped, while others allowed me to lie back and chill, so the tracks are not only audibly pleasing, but also provide some gameplay variety.
Super Dodgeball Beats was a pleasant surprise to play. It looks awesome from a visual standpoint thanks to a great art-style and visual variety, and the tried and true rhythm gameplay works really well here. While the story is non-existent and the gameplay can get inherently repetitive, the catchy tunes can carry you through the game. If you need to scratch that rhythm game itch but don’t want to break the bank, try this out.