All sports can be improved with the addition of superpowers.
The early 2000s were home to numerous examples of what I like to call “toy anime.” These were shows set in worlds that were hyper-focused on a single game or activity. Examples of this would be stuff like Beyblade, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Medabots, etcetera. It’s a special kind of silly fun to build a world around a single sport, especially one that’s as competitive and hot-blooded as dodgeball, which is the case in Pocket Trap’s Dodgeball Academia.
Dodgeball Academia follows rookie dodgeballer Otto as he enrolls in the prestigious Dodgeball Academia, a school for youngsters gifted in the ways of padded spheres to become the greatest dodgeball players in the world. It’s a very silly premise, obviously, though the game leans into it with frequently entertaining results. Many of the characters exemplify toy anime character archetypes, including hot-blooded and outgoing Otto and his friends, the sparky, spunky Mina and the shy and intelligent Balloony.
The game takes place entirely on the school’s campus, which is littered with both dodgeball courts and students eager to play on them. You’re given main quests to forward the story, but there are often a handful of dodgeballers ready to stand in your way, and they won’t budge until you beat them in a match. This brings us to the core gameplay, and much like real dodgeball, it’s a lot of hectic, chin-busting fun. It works the way you’d expect it to: you can chuck dodgeballs at your opponent to drain their health, dodge their attacks, and catch or counter balls that get close to you.
— Golden 💛 (@GoldN64) August 12, 2021
The twist is that every character has unique abilities that grow as they level up. Otto, for instance, can charge his shot to turn his ball into a fireball, lighting opponents on fire and dealing damage over time. Mina’s ball is charged with electricity, damaging other opponents around the one that was hit. Later in the story, special balls with their own elemental properties are introduced, turning each match into a frenzy of fire, ice, lightning, and other wacky substances. This all culminates with Balltimate moves, unique special attacks you can unleash to terrorize the competition.
— Pucho (@PuchoDR_) August 14, 2021
Larger encounters with more foes at once can occasionally get a bit too hectic, especially since you have to manage all three members of your team simultaneously. While opponents will usually aim for your lead player, errant balls can still strike your teammates, which can get them out even if they’re not in command. This isn’t a frequent problem, though; as long as you understand the systems, it’s more than possible to wipe out an enemy team with a single player. Your teammates don’t recover health between fights, but the game absolutely lavishes you with health items, and the school infirmary is never too far away, so recovery is a snap. It almost feels a little unnecessary to have a carry-over health mechanic, but it does at least softly encourage you to mix up your team when your members are hurt.
Dodgeball Academia isn’t a particularly deep or difficult game, but what you do get is plenty of fun. I was eager to play through the story thanks to the writing and characters, and the dodgeball matches are quick, concise, and above all, competitive. If you want a fast-paced, sports based game with a light RPG aspect, you’ll more than get your money’s worth here.