Game Swing’s OddBallers, a raucous top-down dodgeball party game, has been doing the rounds for quite some time now, having languished in various unreleased forms since it was first announced as “coming soon” a fair old while ago. Now it’s suddenly dropped onto Nintendo Switch and, far from the mess we had thought it might turn out to be, it’s actually a really fun little slice of multiplayer mayhem. However, it’s not without its issues.
Oddballers sees players jump into colourful top-down arenas in order to hurl dodgeballs, chickens, bombs, and lots of other goofy items at one another in order to emerge victorious. The action is then made even more chaotic by a multitude of environmental dangers; lawnmowers, acid bombs, electrical charges, and so on, that keep you on your toes as you charge around looking to wipe out your friends and/or a bunch of the game’s relatively capable bots.
Adding to the fun here is the fact that the dodgeball shenanigans are only really a starting point and, as you jump into a local or online lobby and party up, you’ll be whisked through several different minigames alongside standard dodge-le-ball (we’re sure that’s it in French) in order to rack up a set amount of points and snatch that golden trophy from your opponents. There’s a surprising amount of variety in the games on offer, with some really quite inventive stuff that’s a proper hoot, especially if you’ve gathered three mates together in order to get stuck into couch co-op (online caters for up to six players).
We had a particularly good time with the bee-keeping minigame, where players are charged with grabbing jars of honey and escorting them back to a delivery point whilst all pelting each other with whatever objects come readily to hand. There’s a frantic chicken-collecting game, plus sheep-sheering, a few different football-styled efforts, and even a barnyard boss encounter that pops up randomly during matches. There are lots of minigames to try out across a bunch of different arenas, none of them outstay their welcome, and the way the game randomly mixes them all up means that most sets of matches manage to throw up some surprises and stay feeling fresh.
There are a few other clever little touches, such as the way you get to bombard your opponents when you’re knocked out by dropping obstacles on the arena via a quick press of the ‘ZR’ button. There are also various random mutations added to games here and there that mess with rules and other aspects of the action. We were impressed too that, even though there are only three buttons to the whole thing — making it beautifully simple to get into — there are also slightly more advanced options, such as catching a thrown ball by diving into it and then punting it straight back to create a supercharged shot.
For fans of customisation, there’s plenty to get stuck into, with a free battle pass system at work that dishes out endless gear to dress up your wibbly wobbly Oddballers. Oh, and as this is published by Ubisoft, you can also choose to switch out your little round-bodied, rag-dolling ‘baller for a Rabbid, a crossover that works well given the chaotic nature of the action at hand. Good work, Ubisoft, it’s just a bit of a shame that the publisher also pushes its Connect service so hard here, with constant reminders to check it out for gear and rewards alongside annoying notifications every time your console goes offline to let you know you’ll miss out on XP and other goodies whilst disconnected. Put a sock in it, lads.
But, really, this is all understandable enough, and you do get some nice, unique gear from time to time off Connect. It’s a service we always dip into to grab stuff whilst playing Ubisoft titles, it’s just a shame they have to whisk you off to the internet to do it instead of working it into the game in a slicker fashion.
What’s more egregious than any of this, and easily the game’s biggest flaw right now, is that online is either an absolute ghost town or not working very well. We failed to find any games to play in the online mode here, even with Cross-Play enabled, which is a real shame for folk who can’t gather together a bunch of pals or don’t fancy playing against the game’s bots (who can put up fairly stiff competition on the harder difficulty, so don’t fully dismiss them).
Away from this glaring issue there are a few other problems to consider. Menus can feel slow, it takes the game a little too long to initially load up, we couldn’t seem to use our emotes at all during matches when prompted, and there are some hitches including freezing and music issues from time to time.
However, these are all minor annoyances, really, and if the online somehow gets itself sorted — or suddenly manages to find an audience, assuming that’s the issue — there’s lots of silly fun to be had with Oddballers. This is a cleverly designed, colourful, chaotic party game. It’s well-priced and offers up plenty in the way of modes and customisation. If you’ve got a few family members or pals eager to join in with the co-op, you’ll 100% have a blast for the asking price. However, those who want to play online exclusively should be aware that it’s a total bust, at least in the launch period. Let’s hope it can build a following.
Oddballers is a super fun little multiplayer party game that’s got plenty of modes, lots of invention about its minigames, and a chaotic colourfulness that’s hard not to enjoy. Grab some pals, boot into the couch co-op action here, and you’re guaranteed a good time, especially for the asking price. However, be aware that in the immediate post-launch period, the online is a wasteland, a total bust in terms of finding a match. If you’ve got friends or family on hand to jump in, this is a great way to spend a fun few hours. For those who don’t, well there are very capable bots to help you out, but the state of the online mode at launch is certainly an issue to take into consideration before giving this one a purchase.