Publisher: Yuke's Company of America
Release Date: July 16, 2008
Double D Dodgeball is a shining example of why some Xbox Live Arcade titles shouldn't focus so heavily on the multiplayer aspect when the core gameplay feels as bare-bones as this attempt to emulate old-school console sports titles.
Remember Ice Hockey and Tennis on the NES? You could even go so far back as the old Atari 7800 sports titles if you want (or can remember them). That's pretty much how the experience in Double D Dodgeball feels. The game is presented as a top-down, four-versus-four dodgeball game on a 2-D minimalist style field inside of a small rectangle space with almost no background to speak of.
There are four different player types to choose from, each specializing in a particular field, whether that is catching, power, speed or something a bit more well-rounded between the three. Double D Dodgeball is divided into two different rule sets, East and West. With East rules, if you have players that are knocked out (hit by an opposing ball), they can roam around the sides of the field, catching balls that fly out of bounds and then use those against the other team. If they successfully hit the other player, then they can come back into the match. The West rules are a bit more familiar, at least to myself, in that if you're knocked out of a match, the only way you can come back into play is if a teammate manages to catch a throw from an opponent.
Besides the different rules, the title also uses a small variety of fields, such as Ice, Plasma, Shock, and Space, all of which introduce small variations, like causing your players to slide around instead of stopping with the Ice option turned on. There are also different ball types — Fast, Glass, Heavy and Normal — all of which are pretty self explanatory to most, except maybe Glass, which simply explodes on contact, making it impossible to actually catch.
There are a variety of arenas to play in, each with its own West and East rules style, but they generally feel the same, aside from the introduction of small obstacles or walls in the playing field here and there. There's definitely not enough variety to even warrant the number of different available fields, and since there's not an actual change in the standard rectangle playing field, I wonder why they thought people would be entertained by moving an obstacle a bit further to the left or right, depending on which map you choose to play.
Controlling your players is easy enough, simply done by using the left thumbstick to move and the trigger buttons to throw and catch the ball. By holding down the trigger, you can opt to do a super throw, which is just a faster version of your basic throw, but it's also easier for an opponent to predict since it forces you to stay still while you're charging up the ball. Instead of catching an opposing player's ball, you can also deflect it with a ball of your own, and if you happen to be holding a ball at the time, it'll bounce out of your hands. Each field uses a total of three balls, and when the match starts, the players on both teams race toward the center to grab the available projectiles. Also, the computer AI isn't particularly challenging or threatening, and your chances of being hit by a ball bouncing randomly off of a wall are much higher than your opponent actually being able to tag you. Online mode isn't much better, and if you can actually find opponents to play against, you'll be faced with a ton of lag to fight through, making a game that requires precise throws to be pretty much useless in the long run.
So what does Double D Dodgeball do wrong? Sure, the core idea is simple enough, and if someone put a bit more creativity into the presentation, it would feel more like something that warranted time and attention. Instead, Double D Dodgeball goes for a style that seems to imitate other, better titles like Geometry Wars, or even the Pac-Man Championship Edition remake. Unlike those titles, it doesn't have any type of history to build on, so in the end, what would appear to be a simple homage to an older style of game instead comes off as a lazy, lackluster and overall boring product.
And at the core, Double D Dodgeball is boring. The playing field for the matches feels far too small and confined, and the individual designs of the different player types are far too similar for you to easily tell them apart. The single-player mode is virtually nonexistent, consisting only of an "exhibition" mode that allows you to play one match, picking whatever rule set and arena you want, and then defaulting you back to the main menu once you're finished. It honestly feels like demo material at best, but yet you have to pay 800 Microsoft points ($10) for something that most games offer up for free in their demos. The majority of the game is in the multiplayer, but because of that, we have a whole different problem with it.
Just about nobody seems to play Double D Dodgeball online, and I had a really difficult time finding a regular match to join, let alone a full-blown four-versus-four match. I imagine the early negative buzz killed off most of the interest anyone had in this game, and it definitely shows, since the online multiplayer is a virtual ghost town at this point. Of course, when your game is purely focused on the multiplayer aspect, it becomes a killing blow to any possibility for improvements or changes. The game even touts that some DLC will be introduced in the near future, but I have a strong suspicion that most of what the game promises will never see the light of day. This isn't the first XBLA title I've run across that's been hampered in a similar fashion, but you would think that developers would start to take notice of these things a bit more often.
I imagine that someone could find something to like in Double D Dodgeball if they really tried, and I'll admit that the title does play pretty much as promised. However, the lack of a solid single-player experience, coupled with the complete lack of online players, makes the title not worth checking out before the download even begins. It's one of the few games that I can't suggest to anyone, not even genre or retro fans, simply because it doesn't feel like there's anything to play here, and certainly not for 800 points. It's a real shame because I tend to like dodgeball titles, and we definitely don't see enough of them nowadays, but Double D Dodgeball is a step in the wrong direction for the genre.
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