Dodging Ball Z
HIGH Addictive combat and a great art style.
LOW No online multiplayer.
WTF A dodgeball game where I’m not picked last?
We get so many indie JRPGs now that it’s kind of ridiculous, and many of them seem to chase after the style of classics like Earthbound, Final Fantasy VI, and even Chrono Trigger. I do have a certain appreciation for titles from that era if they feature unique combat systems or gorgeous art styles, so it’s lucky that a brand-new one, Dodgeball Academia, has both.
Taking place in a boarding school where everyone trains to be the ultimate dodgeball master, players control Otto, a young boy who is determined to be the absolute best. Characters are expressive and the story feels like it was ripped straight from a Saturday morning cartoon, complete with over-the-top animations and some bizarre humor, often taking clear inspiration from anime like Dragon Ball Z and cartoons like OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes. I genuinely enjoyed the story and found myself laughing throughout. It’s a delightful romp about friendship, determination, and the love of the sport.
I loved the story, but like any great JRPG, the combat system is king. Battles are fought on a small dodgeball court in real-time, with the goal being to knock out opponents on the enemy team. The battles are on a 2D plane and are incredibly fast-paced. Each character has special skills, like Otto being able to shoot large fireballs.
The dodgeball matches are definitely challenging, but never feel frustrating and I absolutely loved the speed of each match, mastering different moves, and even learning how to counter attacks. I also loved how Dodgeball Academia handles random battles.
Traveling through the campus and the overworld, players will occasionally encounter other students who want to challenge Otto and his party. Players can’t run from these fights, but I never found them annoying as each one was varied, thanks to different enemy types and conditions like fighting evil computers in tall grass.
Also included is a local multiplayer mode where players can compete with friends in dodgeball matches with characters unlocked throughout the main story. I liked that the combat was being used in another mode, but was disappointed by the lack of online or bot matches. It’s still hard to get people in the same room to play video games these days, so more options would have been nice.
Dodgeball Academia hits the mark in almost every way. It’s a great combination of classic and new game ideas coming together in a charming adventure. Fans of JRPGs looking for something a little different should get on this court and play some ball.
Disclosures: This game is published by Humble Games and developed by Pocket Trap. It is currently available on PS4, PS5, XBX/S/O, Switch, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 15 hours were spent in the single-player and multiplayer modes and the game was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB this game is E10+ for Fantasy Violence. Parents just need to know that all the violence here is nothing that most kids haven’t seen in a Saturday morning cartoon. Characters get hit with rubber balls and use a variety of attacks to win matches. There is also no harsh language or suggestive themes.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles and on-screen instructions cannot be adjusted and audio is not needed to enjoy this game, thanks to the abundance of visual cues. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable and there is no control diagram. The control stick is used to move around the overworld and arena while the square button is used to launch balls. The circle button is used to dodge/counter and the triangle button charges up a super move.