Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball Hands-On

We check out a work-in-progress version of Blazing Lizard's unique XBLA take on dodgeball.


Earlier today, during a meeting with representatives from Blazing Lizard and Gamecock, we had an opportunity to get our hands on Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball for the first time. Currently scheduled for release via Xbox Live Arcade early in 2008, the game pits two teams of up to four players against each other on battlefields where the deadliest weapon is a brightly colored ball with a smiley face on it. You already know about the pirate and ninja teams. While theirs is certainly a battle that could rage for all eternity, extra variety will come courtesy of zombie and robot teams.

Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball's single-player game will purportedly be story driven, and we're told that each of the four playable teams will have its own version of said story. But we're not sure this is a game that you'll be playing for its storyline. While you'll need to spend some time playing solo or in co-op mode to unlock a couple of the teams, we suspect most of the fun will be had with the competitive multiplayer matches. Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball will support up to four players on a single console, and that number holds true in online matches where up to eight players can do battle simultaneously.

Regardless of which teams you're playing as, every player in the match will have a different special ability. For example, one of the pirates has a wooden leg that he can pound into the ground to stun nearby opponents, while another has a pet parrot that will retrieve the ball for him at any time. Ninja skills that we got to see in action included teleporting the ball into a player's hands and a "cloak" ability that made one of the players almost invisible. At first glance, almost all of the character-specific powers might appear to be a little overpowered, but you need a full stamina meter to activate them. You also use stamina every time you jump, throw a ball, or perform a regular attack, so you won't get to use the specials very often. Incidentally, none of your attacks can actually harm other players--only the ball can do that. Your attacks are simply used to incapacitate opponents and gain possession of the ball.

If there was ever a game that needed to be made into a movie...
If there was ever a game that needed to be made into a movie...

When you've got the ball, your goal is obviously to throw it at one of your opponents. But it's not quite that simple because there are a number of different ways you can go about doing so. For example, if you try to throw the ball while you're running, it'll just go in whichever direction you're facing, but if you remain stationary, your shot will hone in on an opponent. Furthermore, if you throw the ball at the apex of a jump, you'll do so with much more power--making it much harder to defend against. You can defend against incoming balls either by hitting them back at the thrower or by catching them, which replenishes some of your health.

The matches that we played today took place on a beach and in a snow-covered forest, which are the home arenas for the pirates and ninjas, respectively. Environmental objects, such as the trees in the forest, promise to make every arena play a little differently and should make the headstone-filled graveyard of the zombie team especially challenging. The robot team's home arena, which we've yet to see, will have the appearance of a futuristic factory. We're told that at least two additional arenas will be made available for download after Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball's release, along with a fifth playable team.

We'll bring you more information on Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball as soon as it becomes available.

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