Disco Dodgeball Remix is the latest in a long, long line of arcade-sports games that wants to eat up every waking second of your free time in an orgy of color, chaos, and competition. Does it succeed? Yes and no. Serving as a souped-up console version of Erik Asmussen’s cult hit Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball, the game is engaging and, at full velocity, is a dazzling display of dynamic party game fun. However, it’s overshadowed by its better and bulkier peers, and the lack of shine and polish really puts a dampener on proceedings. In essence, it’s Hotline Miami meets Rocket League, minus the style and swagger.
Extreme dodgeball is the name of the game here. Each game takes place on a pulsating, neon-lit backdrop with an easy to pick up, hard to master combo system that carries with it infinitely more personality than the bland Wii Sports-style avatars that make up the game’s characters. But we’re not here for hyper-realistic models; we’re here for throwing balls at people’s faces, dammit!
Catch of the Day
The game would be nothing without a satisfying setup. Thankfully, developers Zen Studios have done a bang-up job of bringing this to consoles. Throwing a ball is a simple button press of R2, as it catching a ball thrown your way (which is a lot harder than it sounds, trust me). The impressive physics system does the rest. Boost is mapped to L1 and jump to X. That’s all there is to it. Simplicity is always key when it comes to these sorts of titles, and Disco Dodgeball Remix has that in abundance.
That simplicity, though, unfortunately carries over to a chunk of the game’s offerings. There’s a Training Mode, a wave-based Arcade Mode that promises much but offers very little in the way of replay value, and Bot Matches, where you can tweak settings, scenarios and difficulty of your opponents to your heart’s content. Team Attrition mode, a balls-to-the-wall (literally) roundtable of team elimination modes set across a variety of increasingly zany arenas is the only mode really worth your time, thanks to the sheer inescapability of its car-crash style of gameplay.
Despite that, there’s (frustratingly) no real competitive single-player mode, and the rewards you do get for completing are suspiciously close to something you’d expect to see pop up in Rocket League, even if the crafting system – offering you incentive to keep duplicated items – is a nice touch. It’s sparse, but, crucially, while you’re playing it, you’ll always have a smile on your face.
Ballin’ With Buds
Of course, multiplayer is the main course here. At its energetic peak, Disco Dodgeball Remix is a cacophony of craziness, with balls flying left, right, and centre. There aren’t many more moments on PS4 worthy of a first-pump than smacking someone from across the arena with a well-timed arc throw, coupled with a helicopter (a mid-air twist for those not of you down with the game’s lingo). These moments are few and far between thanks to the brutal nature of one-shot “kills,” but it’s worth persevering with for that split-second of satisfaction.
Though there is rarely method to the madness, it just about gets away with it thanks to the instantly approachable setup and quick-fire rounds. You’re rarely out of the action for more than 30 seconds before you’re pushed back into a nightmarish neon version of the best/worst gym class imaginable.
The first 90 minutes or so of your time with the game will have you wondering why this hasn’t been hyped to high heaven. After that, you’ll know why. That hour-and-a-half will be all you need to know about the game and, beyond that, gripes start to leak in.
The boost and jump, for instance, lacks what I’d call the DOOM-style twitchiness that is necessary in a game such as this that requires lightning-quick reflexes and ease of movement. The jump in particular is far too clunky and heavy to ever be of use in an unforgiving, multiplayer setting. The boost, despite the game’s sprinkling of powerups doing its best to alleviate the shoddy movement, is equally as ineffective. You’ll find yourself wondering whether you’ve accidentally messed with the settings. You haven’t.
It’s not a deal breaker, but if you’re expecting to make off-the-cuff plays with a flick of the wrist and a wipe of the brow then you’re going to be sorely disappointed with the gamefeel. The best tactic, thanks to the sluggish, stilted maneuverability, is running up to someone and lobbing it point-blank at their face ad infinitum. Yep. That’s about as fun as it sounds.
I want to like Disco Dodgeball Remix, I really do. In a post-Rocket League world, though, it simply pales in comparison to the competition. For all of the futuristic furniture and psychedelic platforms each match comes lumbered with, it still feels like a muted echo of a title that is sorely desperate for more things to do outside of throwing a ball across a brightly-lit arena whose aesthetics we’ve seen all too readily in recent years. This probably could’ve been a GOTY contender in, say, 2013. Not so now despite, paradoxically, the original title receiving a modicum of attention back when it released in 2015.
Still, though, there are plenty of opportunities where you’ll enjoy this game. With friends it’s a blast, probably even better while drunk. That sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise. I’m not. It’s the perfect little party game for you to crack open when you’ve got 15 minutes to kill pre-gaming or just fancy an LSD-inspired palette-cleanser. What it isn’t is a game that you’ll sink hours and hours into, or one that will build up a hugely popular competitive scene that breaks the bank all around the world. This isn’t that game, which is fine. Not every game can be a Rocket League-style success. This is Disco Dodgeball Remix, a slice of silly fun – even if there isn’t much of it to go around.
Disco Dodgeball Remix review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.