What could be better than a game offers up a four way dance of savage Pirates, deadly Ninjas, advanced robots, and brain-eating zombies? A game that pits them against each other in one of the best sports ever created, Dogeball. From Gamecock Media and Blazing Lizard comes Pirates vs. Ninjas Dogeball for the Xbox Live Arcade. So pick up a few sweaty salt water smelling balls and invite them to be planted on someone else’s face!
The line has been drawn and now four of the most notorious factions go head-to-head in the sport of deadly sport of Dogeball. Dogeball is already one of the best games ever created, so adding Pirates, Ninjas, Zombies, and Robots to mix should be a no brainer. Developer Blazing Lizard already has a winning concept from the moment they put together the idea of having a Dogeball game featuring pirates and ninjas. It is that easy, and from the initial press release, I knew I was hooked. The only thing left to see is how the gameplay was handled because the concept is definitely nailed.
Before I get into the specifics of the gameplay lets take a closer look at the four factions, individual contestants and the game modes in Pirates vs. Ninja Dogeball. Each team consists of four members who can do battle with even teams in 2-vs-2, 3-vs-3, or 4-vs-4. The game increases in difficulty naturally when more action is going on, so you should find pitting two characters against another team of the two the best way to start off, and that’s exactly what Blazing Lizard does. The modes of play include a story mode which gives the option of picking on faction and then runs you up the ranks doing battle with the other opponents. The story mode starts with 2-vs-2 and then introduces another teammate after you win four rounds. This goes on until its 4-on-4 where the final skirmish is determined.
The storyline for each faction is told by text boxes with the various characters bantering back and forth. The story for each team is actually pretty funny, so I suggest you take the time to read the conversations and not skip through them. This brings you into the game a makes a little more interesting then straight Dogeball. Each character in the game is important and more than a placeholder. While each character controls the same they actually differ in their special ability and if I’m not mistaken speed and strength. So let’s have a look at the first party I started with, the always awesome Pirates!
The pirates are let by peg-legged Robert Crescent who starts off with his daughter Samantha. Later Fernando Consuela, a Captain Jack Sparrow look-a-like and Belfast native Gerard “Uncle” Murphy are introduced topping off the pirate foursome. Highlighting a few special moves within the pirate clan is Samantha’s ability to blow kisses and charm opponents onto the Pirates side for a few moments and Fernando’s ability to throw a large bomb which is excellent for stunning groups of opponents.
Next and marquee holder are the Ninjas. The ninjas are an unknown bunch of stealthy assassins and rightful don’t have much of a background besides each characters appearance. All you have to do is look into the red eyes of Pachinko-X and you’ll know your dealing with a force that could be a spiritual possessed ninja. That’s not good for those wanting a match and along with the ability to teleport the ball into his hands he is joined by four more Ninja dogeballers. The samurai Minoru Suzuki, head-strong Kasumi Yamamoto and Hideki Miyamoto complete the deadly ninja team. Marking out one more special move for the Ninjas is Hideki’s ability to be cloaked and temporary invulnerability to attacks.
The Zombies and Robots are next, two extra teams that aren’t privileged enough to be listed in the title. Come to think of it Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Zombies vs. Robots Dogeball doesn’t sound nearly as cool. For zombies you have the zombie Jaws McGee, the skeleton Forrest Bones Macaroy, the overall wearing caretaker Ol’ Ben Greazer and the zombified cheerleader Clarice. For moves, well you have the skeleton who can throw his bones at the enemy, or Jaws who can use those chompers to burrow into the ground to move quickly around the map. Lastly, there are the Robots. In my books robots aren’t as cool as the other teams, but they are a pesky bunch in Pirates vs. Ninjas Dogeball.
Here is the four bucket of bolts. First is the cold war construct of JD109, ’80 sci-fi inspired Miss Jenni, rocker biker robot Clayton Boltmaster, lastly is the boltlicious Rhonda Naildriver. Rhonda might have the funniest special move which is the ability to stun opponents with her high beams, ouch! The second highlight power I’ll touch on is JD109’s ability to shoot a freeze ray that freezes his opponents on impact. The robots might not have the looks, but they sure play a mean game of Dogeball. That rounds up the four teams represented in Pirates vs. Ninjas Dogeball. I found half the fun of the game is learning a little about each faction as you are lead through the storyline.
The timeless debate continues onto the multiplayer battlefield of Xbox Live with Pirates vs. Ninjas Dogeball. Too bad, when the multiple times I tried to find a friend online the playing field was barren. I had to resort to handing a friend a few credits to download Pirates. Online with friends, Pirates vs. Ninjas becomes a little more fun then going up against the computer controlled characters. I had a good time going though a few rounds online, but eventually the gameplay wears you down and there is so many times you can switch the characters classes up to make things interesting.
The reason I left the core gameplay portion to the end of the review is because it’s really the weakest aspect of the game which is a shame. The main problem with the gameplay is the lack of feeling while controlling the players and the mixed up crazy un-intelligent matches you seem to have against the games A.I. Another issue is that the story mode doesn’t stick to the traditional rules of Dogeball which is more fun then dialing up special powers and slicing up the opponents with swords. There is something simplistic and entertaining with basic Dogeball which is only an option though exhibition games. The reason why sports games still work after the years, and sports themselves is because no one is messing around with the formula. You might think it’s boring, but it’s really more interesting. When playing Pirates vs. Ninjas using the traditional rules I found the game to be double the fun and wished the would have stuck more with standard aspects of Dogeball.
Going away from traditional mechanics is the ability to use special power-ups, hack n’ slash the enemy at will, and almost unrestrictedly run over the boarders in something Blazing Lizards call Combat Dogeball. All this sounds like fun on paper, but doesn’t really translate into the game. This could be the fault of the way Pirates vs. Ninjas doesn’t feel connected to the game, or could be a bad idea. The pirates have a few things working against them and one of them is the feel of the game which I touched on and secondly the viewpoint never gives you a full good viewing of the playing field. All four arenas are filled with too much stuff lack the charm of a solid court. The robots area is a total mess and hard to navigate which takes away from the simplistic sport of throwing around a few balls.
Pirates vs. Ninjas comes make the sport of Dogeball insanely complicated, and in an odd way entertaining. If you’re looking for an experience that looks like Dogeball and plays like a hack n’ slash sports game then Pirates vs. Dogeball is a good choice. If you want a solid Dogeball title then I can’t fully recommend Pirates vs. Ninjas Dogeball.
Despite its cool cast of characters and excellent concept, Blazing Lizards had a good starting point that missed the mark. Aside from a few rounds of multiplayer Pirates vs. Ninjas Dogeball probably won’t see too much action on your Xbox 360. The game really falls flat after a good hour or so. Thankfully all those who want to test the waters and fight against some peg-legged dogeballers you can hook up the demo on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Pirates vs. Ninjas Dogeball might appeal to some gamers, but those looking for a solid Dogeball game; you’ll have to wait until something a little better than Pirates vs. Ninjas… who would have thought?
Final Score: 5.4
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 09.15.08
- Graphics are presentable
- Epic concept
- Pirates, Ninjas and Zombies
- Fun storyline
- Controlls feel sluggish and unresponsive
- Limiting camera angels
- Alternative Dogeball rules ruin the fun
- Not too many people playing online right after launch
- Robots aren’t nearly as cool as Zombies