Dodgeball. Dodgeball never changes. The classic past-time of highschool gym classes and athletes who can’t afford football helmets has endured for ages. From the ancient caveman ball games, to the Dodgeball Inquisition, to that time in highschool when I got hit in the face by two seperate dodgeballs at the exact same time, the times have changed, but the sport remains the same. Surely today, in the year 2018, it’s high time to see a fresh new take on the classic rubber romp? Strikers Edge aims to answer that call by throwing Vikings, ninja daggers and giant spears into the mix.
The essence of Strikers Edge can really just be boiled down to that simple idea: it’s Dodgeball with weapons. You and an opponent stand across from each other in a sectioned-off arena, with the goal of landing ranged attacks on the opposition to drain their health and win the match. As you aim your attacks, you’ll also have to stay on your toes and make sure to nullify opponent projectiles with either a swift dodge or a well-timed block. Shooting and dodging both drain your stamina meter, while blocks empty a separate and limited block counter that is only replenished when certain attacks land.
It’s a satisfying and addictive formula, but there’s one more layer to this video game lasagna, thanks to the diverse cast playable characters. Each of the 8 characters has their own style of projectiles and dodges, as well as a unique type of buff they get for successfully blocking an attack. Most importantly, though, are the unique charged attacks each character can employ. One character launches a flaming shield that bounces off walls, while another can fire a chain-hook that digs into the opponent and slows their movement. Each of these characters manages to do enough differently from the rest of the cast to make your character choices truly matter, while still adhering to the core formula of dodge-shoot-block-win.
If only the game actually told you about any of their differences. While a brief tutorial gives you a rundown on the basic mechanics of the game, there’s nowhere in the game that gives you a breakdown on each character and their unique abilities. Oddest of all, that specific breakdown material is featured on the front page of the website for Strikers Edge! If the material is already prepared, could they really not have bothered to insert it into the actual game? Instead, discovering how each character plays and who you vibe with the most means you’ll have to jump into one of the regular game modes, of which there are… not very many.
Campaign mode lets you explore some of the backstory of each character through a series of battles. The narrative is nothing groundbreaking or truly engaging, mostly due to how short it all is. Each character goes through just around four battles in their respective campaigns, and in a few instances, the battles and the character dialogue that preceded them were entirely lifted and shared between multiple campaigns. Still, as the only way to play Strikers Edge offline and learn each character, the mode has some merit.
All of this combat is rendered in a crisp, lively pixel art style. Each character clearly stands out not just from each other, but from the gorgeous environments they do battle on. I never had an issue understanding the visuals that were going into my eyeballs, although I did have some issues with slowdown due to the environmental hazards in certain areas, as well as bizarre artifacting glitches popping up on almost every loading screen. A fun soundtrack accompanies each of the battlefields, mixing retro sound with more traditional instruments. While the story lacks punch, the style is a haymaker.
Once you’re ready for some human competition, you can hop into local or online play and brawl with other players in four different arenas. If you want some variety, you can even do 2v2 battles, but beyond that you’ll have to go somewhere else. There really isn’t much depth of content available in Strikers Edge at all. Besides the small amount of game modes, there’s no progression system or profile leveling, no rankings or leaderboards, and no unlockables of any kind.
On PC, the game includes Twitch integration that allows streamers and viewers to enable quirky game modifiers like slippery floors, giant projectiles, or HUD-less mode. Unfortunately for PS4 players, this Twitch functionality is not supported, and these game modifiers are inaccessible. In a game with such a severe content drought, having access to those mutators would have had added some much-needed legs to this game.
Strikers Edge has a strong and satisfying core, but there just isn’t enough surrounding that core experience to keep me engaged for very long. A lack of game mode variety would be excusable if there were some incentive for me to keep playing the one core mode this game has, but that incentive is nowhere to be found. Coupled with the lack of character descriptions or a proper way to practice their abilities, Strikers Edge is a lot like highschool dodgeball; you can only enjoy the same rubber ball hitting you in the teeth for so long before you decide to play something else.
Version tested: PlayStation 4