Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball aims to settle an old score

One of the latest additions to the Xbox Live Arcade family seeks to finally settle the raging score between some of life's most entertaining figures, namely ninjas and pirates. Of course, without the bitter rivalry between ninjas and pirates and deciding which is cooler, the popularity of similar creatures of zombies and robots would certainly wane. Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball wants to determine once and for all which faction is worthy of being the coolest, strongest, and all-around greatest, all in some rousing games of dodgeball.


Unfortunately, all Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball manages to do is frustrate and annoy players into oblivion. The idea behind the game and the title may well be the best parts of the entire package. First things first: the actual game that you are matched up against pirates or ninjas (depending on who you choose) is not really dodgeball. While it might loosely resemble the classic game we used to play in gym or in the streets while our parents screamed at us to get inside and eat dinner, the only aspect that is retained is the fact that you throw balls. Aside from that, there is nothing within the game even remotely close to the real playground battle royale.

In an attempt to make it a deeper game than it actually should be, a story mode was included. My first playthrough was as the Ninja team (I don't actually prefer ninjas OR pirates, but that's all you can choose at first). There are no cutscenes, just scenes with accompanying text to read as your character speaks to various acquaintances and for some reason engages in dodgeball games.

I actually found the scenes to be mildly entertaining due to the humor that was implemented, but without voiceovers, scenes, or any movement whatsoever, the entire ordeal quickly turned very bland.

It all sounds like a very simple and fun premise, right? Wrong, and let's not forget it is still nothing like dodgeball.

To be honest it's more like a brawler that tacked on "dodgeball" because of the ball "weapons" your characters can pick up. Actually putting game mechanics to use requires the patience of a saint. You cannot control the camera, so whatever angle the game decides to give you, you're stuck with. The only thing you can do is move around the arena and hope that you can still manage to get a glimpse of what is going on. 

Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball has a nasty rubber-band effect as well. When you kind of get the hang of how to search for your character like in a Where's Waldo picture, things get a little easier, and sometimes a little fun, when you manage to correctly judge distance and depth. Just when you think you may have the bizarre control scheme and camera angles down, the game tosses you a curveball and ramps up the difficulty. 

Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball set out to be an innovative, humorous game of dodgeball intended for multiplayer parties and to poke fun at the war between pirates, ninjas, zombies, and robots. What it accomplishes is hardly worth taking a look at. The addition of manual camera adjustment and more responsive controls would have made this mini brawler a joy to partake in.

Perhaps a sequel would learn from its predecessor's mistakes, because it has quite a lot of potential. The battle between childhood heroes wages on, perhaps to resurface in a better game in the future that's actually fun.