Preview: Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge into Knockout City
Getting a chance to try out a completely unknown game is always weird; sometimes, the games are new entries in existing series, so you have an idea, but then there are all new titles like this one. Knockout City is an all-new game; from a relatively new developer and cross-play on multiple systems, there was a lot to understand, but thankfully it is not as complicated as you might think. Knockout City comes from the developers of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit and is being published by EA Games.
The game is just dodgeball, fancy dodgeball, to be sure, but still just dodging balls thrown at you, where it becomes something grander is in the mechanics that make it possible. Before we jumped into any matches, they insisted that we jump into the tutorial and play around with it there, which was nice, given that there were a few mechanics to learn. Still, it only really takes a few moments to understand how they all work. Let’s lay them out, you move around a map, jump, glide and run, that is your movement set, nothing too fantastic, but when you start mixing in the dodgeball systems, things can be chaotic – least at first.
Throwing a ball is pretty straight forward. It just goes straight, but how far it goes depends on how much you hold the throw button down; as my hands-on was on PC, this was done with the left mouse button. A light throw is fine if the person is close to you. Still, if they are far away, it might lose momentum on its way. Of course, powering up your throw slows you down a little and makes it easier for other folks to bash you with a ball, making your choice a balance between attacking and defending yourself. Finding a ball is simple, as they are lying around the map, and once you have disposed of yours, you will either need to find another one or wait until one is thrown at you.
While you can throw the ball straight, you can curve the ball, as if you were Wesley Gibson from Wanted, that means you can throw it, and the ball will go around obstacles in your way; you need to press another button to do that. If curving the bullet, I mean the ball is not an option; you can lob it up and over, which can let you clear obstacles and target those above you. All of this comes into play when you have to consider the ball types themselves because apart from regular balls, you also have bomb balls and trap balls and more. Learning the intricacies of each ball type and finding a playstyle that works for you is critical.
Of course, that is all about the attacking, but a core component of any dodgeball match is the ability to catch the ball, and while this does not require some Street Fighter level combination, it does require the right timing. There’s one button for throw and another for a catch – it’s a relatively simple setup. You’ll have to time it right or risk getting smashed in the face. Don’t worry; there’s a training space to prepare you. When you are not facing your opponent, the screen gets a border around it, and a bulge appears in it to indicate that someone is targeting you. This warning gives you a few precious moments to turn around and get ready for a catch.
During the playthrough, the modes that were available to us were the standard 3v3 Team KO match, the Diamond Dash 3v3 game, and then the 4v4 Ball-Up Brawl. Team KO is just you and two others, going up against another team of three. The first team to 10 knockouts wins, win two rounds, and you win the match. The second mode, Diamond Dash, is almost the same, except when you knock out someone, they drop diamonds, requiring you to run in and collect them. If you don’t, then you get nothing. You have to be quick, though, because the opposing team members can dash in and claim them, leaving you without an increase to your score. The final one we played, Ball-Up Brawl was the most unique in that there were no balls to be found on the map. Instead, you have to roll yourself up into a ball, something you can do in any match and let other members of your team throw you around. If your teammate powers up their first throw and passes it to the other member of your team, you can see a devastating attack be unleashed, but it leaves you exposed to counter-attacks; while you are balled, you are just watching.
As you play through the game, you’ll be able to upgrade your character’s look from a dozen categories. Each category contains dozens upon dozens of items to unlock, from jackets to hairstyles, glasses to logos. There’s plenty here, and none of it requires you to spend one single cent of real money. You can choose to do it this way, but if you do, it is only for the look as not a single item changes how your character plays; everything is just purely for the look of things, so getting that fantastic pair of gloves, won’t make you catch every shot.
There is a lot more to understand about Knockout City, and while it is straightforward to pick up, there is a lot to comprehend to master things. There were only a few maps that we got to play on, but the developers say more are planned, but even so, the ones available to us were fun, and it gave me the chance to play in traffic, something I was always told not to do.
Knockout City is out on the Nintendo Switch on May 21st.