Boom Blox, Wii - £16

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Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball, XBLA - Review

Review by Will Templeton

Whose side are you on? It's one or the other. It's a debate that's raged for centuries. But do you care?

Gamecock and Blazing Lizard certainly hope that you do, with their release of Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball on Xbox Live Arcade. 800 points (just over a fiver, depending on where you source your points) will net you a game that, while fun, will probably only last the life of the meme.

There's nothing deeply wrong with PvN Dodgeball. There's a cute story behind it with some genuinely funny moments. It's a fairly solid mechanic and I can see it being fun to play with other people once everyone fully understands it. But it's the little things that let it down.

For example, throwing the ball at the apex of a jump will result in a powerful throw that can't be caught or parried. However, I've found that it's extremely difficult to do this consistently, whereas the AI seems to be able to do it with almost every throw. Coupled with that, blocking requires extreme precision, and you have to be facing in the direction the ball is coming from, something that the game does not tell you directly. This can be very frustrating and leads to all too many cries of "Dammit, I pressed X!"

The ball can be difficult to distinguish from the stage on some occasions. As in some game modes the opponents can cross the centre line, this means that the AI can simply continually throw the ball at you and retrieve it while you're still wondering where it bounced. A simple glow would have fixed this but it not present.

I'd consider all this a little too critical except that if these were fixed then I can see a great little game underneath. Within a few minutes you could have learned all the controls and can been battling the other teams with your friends (there's Pirates, Ninjas, Robots, Zombies, and a 'secret' unlockable character team), except with the way it is now there are too many moments that feel cheap. When a game is this simple it needs to be balanced well, and it's too unforgiving.

I've never been a fan of the argument that 'you need to spend a little time with it and learn the game before you start to enjoy it.' Simple games like this - hell, most games that are designed for Xbox Live Arcade and similar services - are designed with ease of use in mind. But once you have spent a little time with PvN, it does show its true colours and I some of the battles are very entertaining. However, it still feels a little hollow. I shouldn't have to fight through that layer of frustration to find the gem underneath.

If you're paying 800 moon pounds for this game it feels like it should be a little meatier. It's not that this game isn't worth five quid or so, but the fact that for the same amount of money you could get an experience like Geometry Wars or N+ brings down the value. As of right now, it feels like a minigame that you would look forward to in a game like Mario Party. You wouldn't necessarily go out of your way to play it, but when it pops up, everyone enjoys it.