Impressions: Dodgeball Academia

Dodgeball Academia is an indie game from summer 2021. In it, you play Otto, who is attending a dodgeball school that is currently fighting for their right to keep the “hero’s dodgeball.” Throughout the game you have to complete various classes, side quests, and random adventures to advance day by day until you face the final tournament. Gameplay, of course, being… dodgeball.

The story is rather fun. Otto is unknown in the school, so at first, he has a hard time finding a team and being accepted by his classmates. He also quickly makes an enemy with a character named Nino, who believes that Otto stole his chance to unlock his true powers, something that becomes more important as time goes on. However, despite his rough start, Otto’s kindness and positive attitude, even with his splash of silliness and immaturity, start to win more people over. No matter how much people try to keep him down, Otto is driven to keep going and never loses his kindness for others. This pays off, and he slowly builds up more allies and friends.

As you play, you will unlock more powers, including your ultimate move, and more players. You can trade your team around and really get a feel for who you like to use based on their stats and powers. However, I found myself mostly using Otto and only mildly experimenting with the rest of my team. You aren’t forced to play this way, though. I could have easily adjusted more, I just didn’t personally. You also unlock equipment that can help, although some come with negative effects too.

Each day has its own quest to it and a number of side quests you can track down. The quests will often start with something small and build a bit. Most of the time they don’t help with furthering the larger story, but they are often cute and fun and will get Otto either more teammates or something to that effect. Some days do further things, like continued updates with Nino and his anger towards Otto. Some days also get you backstory on teammates or side characters. While again, most of it could be seen as filler, it was all a lot of fun and well written.

I also enjoy that there are more conflicts than just the central one(s). Early on, you discover that Otto’s father does not want him to be at dodgeball school, and it’s the overarching plot with Otto needing to win the final tournament to stay. Or at least it seems to be the overarching plot… I won’t give much more away, as I think people should play the game. Only that when you think you’ve seen the climax, you haven’t.

Otto is a great protagonist, and the other characters are pretty interesting. A lot of them fall into particular tropes you would expect from, say anime, but they bring their own little flavor to it. It is an excellent tongue-in-cheek look at sports anime, something it references a lot, but also sort of highlighting the best parts of the same thing. Otto’s positive attitude, teamwork, working hard, etc.

Gameplay is, as mentioned above, dodgeball. This is where I have to be a little honest. The game can get repetitive. There is a lot to do for a relatively short game, which I appreciate, the problem being it’s all the same thing. Dodgeball in the car lot, dodgeball side quests, dodgeball classes, you get the point. Yes, obviously, this is going to be the case, it’s a dodgeball game, but I found myself needing a break now and then. However, the days are relatively short, and it’s a good “pick up for a bit” game, so this isn’t a dealbreaker. Complete a day every day or two, and you’re less likely to get drained.

The game can also be pretty challenging. I had a lot of issues when I first booted it up until I realized there were accessibility options. You can make the game more challenging or even make your character invincible, and several stages between. I like this new way of doing things as it’s not just “easy, medium, hard” but rather “I could use more power, but I am fine taking the same damage” or whatever works best for you. It also allows you to switch based on actual fights. Sometimes you can deal with a challenge; sometimes, it might be too much. I will say, though, it can be a bit amusing to really make the game easy but then still get scenes with Otto talking about the struggle.

The art is fun, although it sometimes felt a bit borderline to me… the music is also nice, if not a little repetitive. All in all, I have little to complain about. It’s a short game with a few maps, so it might feel small to some people, but I think that’s fine. I think it’s the right size and length for the tone and gameplay.

So bottom line? I really recommend this game. It’s a lot of fun, cute, and I have little to complain about. The accessibility options really make it approachable for most gamers. It’s kid-friendly without being too immature for adult gamers. It’s also not all that long, so a nice shorter experience between epics that can sometimes feel like too much. It is roughly $25 on most systems, but it is also (as of the time I am writing this) on Game Pass. I really enjoyed it and hope you will too!

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