A single Videoball game consists of hundreds of split-second decisions, each of which has the potential to turn the tide of the match. “Decisions” is the operative word there. In video games based on team sports with higher player counts, such as soccer and football, it can seem like outcomes are determined by computer calculations rather than by you. But even when I played Videoball with AI-controlled characters, I always felt like I was in control.
That’s a testament not only to the smarts behind the AI personalities in Videoball, but also to the game’s precise mechanics and fine-tuned design. Videoball makes no secret of its arcade inspirations, what with its simple geometric shapes and flat 2D art style. Those old-school sensibilities extend to the act of playing Videoball, which is one of those quintessential easy-to-learn-but-hard-to-master experiences.Rocket League seemingly came out of nowhere last year and hooked players with its simple, but absurdly fun mechanics. Videoball is, in many ways, this year’s equivalent. It’s far more low-tech than Rocket League, but maintains that engaging sense of quirky fun. Videoball will create a warm and fuzzy sense of nostalgia, in its mechanics, but also aesthetics. If you’ve been around the gaming block awhile–especially since the late ’90s–Videoball will immediately create a warm and fuzzy sense of nostalgia. The title screen, menus, the commentator voices, the music…everything about the look, sound, and feel of the game smacks of love for Sega’s heyday.Videoball is a very simple game. A ball spawns in the center of the field and two teams of arrows fight to shoot the ball into their opponent’s goal. The players are literal arrow points, either red or blue. The ball is just a circle and the field is mostly a mix of squares and rectangles–it looks primitive, yet clean and concise.The Arcade stages demonstrate Videoball‘s AI personalities. All 14 of them have descriptive one-word names, like Homer (stays on your team’s side of the field) and Punchy (a tackle-happy brute), and Arcade mode is a great way to get to know them. I was thoroughly impressed by these characters, whether I was playing with or against them. Many local multiplayer games in the vein ofVideoball have lackluster AI, or don’t bother with it at all (see Sportsfriends). I played about half of my games of Videoball with the AI rather than with other humans, and never felt like my CPU teammates or opponents were dumb.The Arcade mode is also a good introduction to the 30-plus arenas that Videoball offers. The playing field always takes the form of a rectangle with the same basic dimensions, but can vary in terms of the obstacles on the field and the sizes of the goals. If you don’t feel like running through the Arcade mode gauntlet, though, don’t worry: Thanks to Videoball‘s efficient visual design, I was able to pick up on the finer points of the game as I played. As long as you pay attention to the interface — which elegantly conveys a great deal of information — you’ll soon understand how everything works.Gameplay is inspired by a variety of sports–football and soccer chiefly among them–but it’s easy to control, with only one button to worry about. You take a basic shot with the ball in your possession with a quick tap, but by holding the button down to charge shots, there’s room for more strategic play.
When charging, you can opt for a lighter-than-normal shot, or release it when the charge is full to fire the equivalent of a speeding bullet. Overcharge your shot, and your arrow creates a block, which is, as one might guess, good for blocking things. On boards with smaller goal areas, the block can temporarily prevent the opposing team from scoring. Other times, it just makes the path to a goal less direct.
Videoball relies heavily on things bouncing off each other for its entertainment value. Hitting the ball directly with your arrow, for instance, shoves you back and stuns you for a second. Bouncing the ball off obstacles enables terrific bank shots. Hitting another player with a charged shot will result in a careening tackle, briefly taking them out of the action before they regain control again.
Videoball’s simple controls and straightforward presentation make for a great multiplayer game that nearly anyone can just sit down and have fun with. Matches range from one-on-one to three-on-three and support a variety of options that work for online or local play–the entire match takes place on a single screen, so you won’t have to worry about dealing with a split-screen view.