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.
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.
There aren’t different game modes so much as a huge variety of game fields with different layouts that call for complex tactical thinking, cespite the initially simple mechanics. The basic open field gives way to obstacle-laden maps with smaller goals that require greater understanding of the bounce physics and charge-level of your shots.
For the times when you want to play alone, though, Videoball's arcade mode has you covered, though it can't match the excitement of a live match with friends. Each level sports a different AI player that uses very specific tactics. While one level might use AI players that focus heavily on defense, the next match might pit you against quirky arrows that are out to get your arrow directly and barely care about the ball. The AI isn’t terribly sophisticated--and they frequently ignore balls on your end of the field--but it’s a varied approach to handling single-player in a primarily multiplayer game. You can also use AI players in multiplayer games to enable human vs bot matches.
With its distinctively clean retro stylings and deceptively simple set up, Videoball may blindside you with the pace and depth of its gameplay. It's reminiscent of arcade classics, and is easily one of the best multiplayer experiences of the year. It bridges the gap between the hardcore shooter-loving players and those interested in sports who want something different. It may be low-tech, but Videoball's simple elegance deserves high marks.