|System: X360, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Blazing Lizard||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SouthPeak Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 13, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
It's always been a fun bit of nostalgia to engage in what seems to be the age-old debate of who ranks supreme: pirates or ninjas? Publisher SouthPeak Games (Big Bang Mini, Ninja Town) now hopes to give gamers an opportunity to draw their own conclusions by way of dodgeball high-jinx. Does Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball, at long last, declare a victor from amongst these two gaming factions?
Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball offers two main gameplay types - single-player and multiplayer. In story mode, you can choose to play as either pirates or ninjas, and then later unlock modes for zombies, aliens, and Mushroom Men (from their respective franchise). If you're expecting an engrossing story, however, prepare to be sorely disappointed. The prose is delivered via text and character stills, and it's a plot that will likely inspire most players to press the A button continuously in order to zip on to the actual gameplay.
Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't offer much depth, either, and Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball is both shallow and something of a mess. Once you've chosen which faction you want to play as, the game runs you through a series of dodgeball missions. The missions come in two basic flavors - traditional dodgeball or more loose, battle-type matches that allow characters to move about entire stages.
The controls are fairly straightforward and, for the most part, work quite well. This is perhaps the one element of the game that exhibits any redeeming quality. You'll often find yourself in matches where you have a team of either two or three characters to control, with you handling one specific character while the A.I. handles the others. You can swap characters on the fly, á la Mario Strikers, by pressing the C button.
As for the main character controls, you move your character with the analog stick on the Nunchuk, jump with the A button, catch balls with the B button, and either attack or toss the ball with a waggle of the Wii Remote. Therein lays the only real issue with the controls. Like Mario Strikers, the field can get chaotic quickly, and you'll have to do plenty of attacking and interception in order to keep from losing your own health (when a character's health runs out, they're knocked out for the rest of the match). Mapping the attack/throw to a waggle ultimately leads to a lot of flailing. Additionally, there's pretty much no feedback coming from the Wii Remote when gesturing, and in execution, attacking/throwing is both unsatisfying and physically painful.
Of course, this is dodgeball, so you can command your character to dodge out of harm's way by pressing any direction on the D-pad. Since a ball will gain momentum and eventually become a blazing orb of fire the more it's volleyed, the dodge technique is an integral part of the gameplay. It does, however, take a bit of finesse to get your timing down, as dodging too soon will often only serve to put you right in the path of an enemy's shot. Throws are guided, so once you or an enemy locks onto a character and tosses the ball, the ball homes in on that character. Your options then are either to waggle a counter throw, execute a well-timed catch with the B button, or dodge.
Admittedly, there are some fun mechanics built into this game, in spite of the player being forced to waggle in order to execute attacks/throws. However, the missions and stages are boring and often cramped to the point of making play something of a dodgeball mosh-pit. It doesn't help that the camera will often cause you to lose sight of your character when the ball is in enemy possession, which in turn, makes it impossible to intercept a ball being lobbed your way.
The A.I. is also a bit ruthless, and the missions are all over the place in terms of difficulty. Whereas some missions require endless repeats due to cheap enemy A.I., other missions are over in seconds. The bottom line, though, is there's very little satisfaction in the experience as a whole. The story makes no sense and offers little incentive to keep you jumping back into the fray; there are only a small handful of mission types. Once you've played through about 10-15 minutes of Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball, you've seen just about everything the single-player game has to offer. Your only real objective the entire time is to hit enemies with the ball, and the game never ventures beyond that scope.