PAX East First Impressions – VIDEOBALL


VIDEOBALL. How I wish I could play it right now. But I wouldn’t selfishly contain this joy for myself. I would most definitely share it with five other friends, since it features local or online 3 vs. 3 games, as well as 2 vs. 2. VIDEOBALL is one of those rare games where the graphics are as simple as possible – minimalist, in fact – but that doesn’t limit the gameplay depth at all. Specifically, VIDEOBALL uses simple geometrical shapes to create an engaging sports-like party game that’s right up there with whatever famous products Nintendo dishes out.

Action Button Entertainment places little triangles that represent players on a hockey-field-like backdrop. Using an analog stick, each player glides and slides freely, while a ball appears in the middle. Without touching it, the goal is to “kick” it to the “touchdown” zone on the other side of the screen. That is done by shooting projectiles, which can be aimed at the opposing players as well. So with just one button, how complex can this game get?

VIDEOBALL easily turns into action-strategic mayhem, because charging the projectile opens up a lot of possibilities. You can shoot in short spurts, sending small projectiles which won’t make a lot of impact; but if they hit another player (including your teammate) he or she gets disabled and can’t do anything for approximately two seconds. Charging up more makes the projectile stronger, but there’s a sweet spot right on the third pulse – if done perfectly, you’ll do a super projectile that has an insane pushback on it. Very effective when trying to get the ball to the other side of the screen. That’s not all, however. Holding the button to the max spawns a big square, which can be placed anywhere as a form of defense.

“Don’t all do the same thing! Make sure you split your roles!” repeated Tim Rogers, director at Action Button Entertainment. This is just a part of what gives insane depth to this minimalist sports title. If both people try to do the same thing, it generally won’t work, since you can hurt each other. Listening to his advice, I devoted some of my time just to shooting my opponents, knocking them out, while my teammate started out with placing defenses. Of course, good play equals doing two or even three functions at the same time. A perfectly charged shot may push the ball into other opponents, knocking them out and giving a free field. Setting up the square defenses takes so long, it may be best to do it only at certain times. In this way, VIDEOBALL wonderfully synthesizes strategy with skill (just like real sports!) while using simplistic geometry graphics. But that’s not to say that the animations weren’t snappy and responsive, as the game smoothly pulses with explosions and fluid frames.

VIDEOBALL_04The developers are considering early access, but they’re currently working on multiplayer and its features. They’re aiming for a release this Summer on Steam for PC/Mac/Linux platforms first. Consoles are not confirmed, but with enough support, it could be a possibility; VIDEOBALL would work out great on them.

Other than multiplayer, VIDEOBALL will let you enjoy it in multiple modes: a “Campaign” mode will let you square off against bots in three different competitive leagues, co-oping with friends; single player practice lets you prepare for the big night to cream your guests; and finally, there are matches that can be fully customized, with various conditions like time limit, number of balls, stage types, and win conditions. The game will track all your stats, remembering all the slam-dunks and touchdowns you score.

Are you excited for VIDEOBALL?! If you’re not, you should be! Now go and tell your friends and come back to IGM for more info.

Luke has wide interests in games, from compelling fighting, action, and RPG titles to deeper interactive, storytelling titles that push today's genres and boundaries - especially awesome if they're related to diversity. Feel free to reach out on Twitter or via email.