Velan Studios brings online, team-based dodgeball action to Switch later this spring
During a special demo presentation, I had a chance to go hands on with Knockout City, an online competitive game featuring futuristic dodgeball. Matches are quick, the gameplay can be frantic, and it’s got the style to turn heads. A joint effort from EA and Velan Studios, the makers of Mario Kart Live, Knockout City has the chance to score a TKO when it comes to Switch on May 21st.
The core gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has ever played dodgeball or a similar activity. You attempt to knockout your opponents by throwing a ball at them and you protect (and arm) yourself by catching balls thrown at you. You can take two hits before being knocked down, unless you’re hit by a bomb, for example. In addition to the standard ball, there are speciality ones that have different powers; one acts like a timed mine for a game of hot potato, and another disrupts gravity while you’re holding onto it. A ball in your possession can be charged up to add some extra oomph to your throw, and catching a ball at the last second charges it up automatically. You can also dash into opponents to knock their ball loose or dash away from oncoming danger. Another neat ability is curling up into a ball so that your teammates, or even your opponents, can throw you like a ball. If you get charged up by a teammate, you can be launched into the air as a bomb and come crashing down with an explosion, automatically knocking out any opponents within the blast radius. The mechanics seem fairly simple, and after only a couple matches I felt like I had a good grasp of what to do and how to be successful.
While there will be a few more modes at launch, I spent time across three different play modes during the demo: 3v3 Team KO, Diamond Dash, and 4v4 Ball-Up Brawl. 3v3 Team KO is your standard Deathmatch: teams of three attempt to score a total of 10 KOs before their opponents do. Diamond Dash is similar except that KO’ed opponents drop three or more diamonds that need to be collected up to a total of 30 for a win, but members of the opposite team can collect their comrade’s diamonds to prevent you from doing so. 4v4 Ball-Up Brawl removes the standard and special balls entirely, forcing you and your team to curl up in each other’s arms for firepower, rather than warmth. I found this particular mode a little frustrating during the demo because it relies more heavily on communication among team members, and the removal of the generic balls meant less offense overall.
The style and customization of Knockout City remind me a little of Splatoon, with a central hub area where you can train and change your outfit. Cosmetics are earned by leveling up but can also be purchased with real money. There are no current plans for a battlepass-like system, but I believe all in-game items can be earned and acquired through gameplay. I also learned from the presentation that a full trial of the game will be available at launch so that anyone who wants to can enjoy the game for a limited time. After your trial period expires, the cost will be $19.99.
I can’t say that Knockout City is the type of game I usually gravitate towards, but my hours spent with the game left me feeling optimistic and certainly much more interested than I had expected to be. With full cross-play, and more modes, stages, and balls to be revealed, don’t duck or dodge any upcoming details on Velan Studios latest. I’m looking forward to diving back in as soon as I get the chance.