In today’s video game industry, we are graced with new game releases each and every week, typically with something new dropping in each of the 52 weeks of the year. It wasn’t always this way, but this weekly release cadence we find ourselves in often has me wondering if a game snuck by that I would have enjoyed. Did I miss the next sleeper hit? Is there a new title in a genre that I love flying under the radar? Luckily, my incessant worrying allows me to occasionally catch such a game. Enter OddBallers, a charming dodgeball multiplayer party game from Ubisoft that is loads of fun, but despite launching last week, doesn’t seem to have even got off the runway.
I want to reiterate that OddBallers is a blast to play, and can be done so locally or online with four or six players, be they humans or AI-controlled bots. Normally, choosing whether to play against humans or bots is a matter of personal preference, but unfortunately in OddBallers’ case playing against bots is a necessity, as the human player base is dead on arrival for this otherwise wonderful game. While on the hunt for my fellow human players, I played with crossplay enabled the entire time and tested various times of day and days of the week, mostly to no avail. Thankfully the AI players are more than competent, beating me on numerous occasions or taking matches down to the wire, and that was primarily on medium difficulty – there are also easy and hard settings. For what it’s worth, there were times when the AI was downright better than the few humans that I did encounter.
OddBallers is an easy game to pick-up and play, with only three button inputs: throw, dodge, and grab, making it accessible to a large audience of gamers and non-gamers alike. There is more than meets the eye here though, as this isn’t just round after round of dodgeball. There is a nice variety of minigames on offer, from the expected Last One Standing dodgeball game to Mascot (survive the longest dressed in a mascot suit while the other players endlessly pelt you) and Fowl Play (catch chickens and throw them into trucks for points), just to name a few. My personal favorites are Toot Your Horn, where you compete to be the first person to play a horn to 100%, Ultimate Flatball, which is the game’s take on ultimate Frisbee, and Beach Brawl, which is a sort of soccer minigame.
The gameplay loop is simple and addictive, made even better by quirky characters, loose physics, and a variety of environmental hazards to contend with. You can grab and throw anything from dodgeballs to rolls of toilet paper, while charging up throws leads to more damage. Knocking out an enemy with a charged shot can also send them rag dolling hilariously out of the arena. Depending on the game type, other players aren’t always the most practical target, as it might be more strategic to hit a nearby electric fence to immobilize an opponent, setting them up for a walloping strike. And that’s just one of many environmental hazards which bring a welcome touch of chaos to the playing field. You’ll also need to keep an eye out for flying gas canisters, rogue lawn mowers, and electric eels of all things. The game keeps you on your toes, as there are also random occasions where you get to vote on a modifier before a game, like one that makes everything a one-hit knockout. For a title designed almost entirely around its moment-to-moment gameplay OddBallers appropriately hits the mark in that regard, nailing the fun factor of other popular party games on the market, but iterating on the formula with a dose of physicality and increased amounts of wackiness.
Matches can vary in length according to your preference from short to long. Short matches require four match points to qualify for a win, medium matches require seven, while long matches require 11. Points are earned by finishing in first or second-place in minigames. Using short matches as an example, once you accrue four points you have reached match point status, which means that winning one more minigame will crown you the overall winner of the match. All of which is to say that OddBallers can be as flexible as you want it to be from a time commitment standpoint - a design aspect that I have come to greatly appreciate as life gets continually more busy. My play sessions ranged anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours, and part of that was me getting sucked into that “one more match” mentality on several occasions.
Completing matches and in-game challenges earns experience points, leveling up the Loyalty Pass which is just a free battle pass (OddBallers is not free-to-play). Ranking up unlocks new cosmetics and emotes to customize your character, with a somewhat surprising amount of customization options available. You can change the look of your dodgeballer from head to toe, with some of my favorite looks being the mad scientist outfit for the OddBallers and the mankini for the Rabbids. Yes, you read that correctly. Rabbids are available as playable characters in a crossover with another Ubisoft IP that fits perfectly with the zaniness of the game. Meanwhile, the titular OddBallers are essentially odd shaped, big-bellied humans that are slightly more customizable. All of this can be updated in the superb pre-match lobby, which is very well done. Practice your throws, experiment with in-game objects, change outfits, setup and change match settings, and ready-up all by moving your character to different stations around the lobby.
One other small – but still noteworthy – gripe before I go is that at the time of review there are a couple of minor glitches present, but they are not game-breaking whatsoever. They are minor annoyances and include a weird audio “machine-gunning” glitch between minigames (do not play with headphones), and issues with item selection in the character customization screen that don't save your selection all of of the time. Both of which should be relatively easy fixes with a patch.
So what gives here? Ubisoft has produced a brilliantly fun, charming, and chaotic multiplayer game that seemingly no one is playing or talking about. The onus is on Ubisoft here, as I’m not quite sure they understood what they had in OddBallers. It’s a release that came out of nowhere and appears poised to return from whence it came with nary a peep. That would be a real shame, because despite feeling like I was the only person on the planet playing it, OddBallers is one of the best party-style games that I’ve experienced.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the newest member of Gaming Nexus. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours. I also co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.View Profile