Game review: Videoball balances arcade-inspired thrills and retro sensibilities
It might not push the boundaries of modern gaming, but Videoball channels a type of old-school thrill not seen often enough these days
Action Button Entertainment
Simplicity is key when it comes to crafting an engaging video game – just look at the success of Pokemon Go (that’s the only time we’re going to mention that game, by the way).
Whether it involves a plumber jumping around a hallucinatory world, a hedgehog rolling at lightning speed to collect gold rings, or just two white rectangles parrying a circle back and forth, making an addictive game isn’t as easy as you might think.
Videoball (available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC) is shaping up to be that feel-good gaming hit of the summer – like last year’s Rocket League, it uses a simple, almost unsophisticated concept and super-fast dynamics to create a compulsive experience that’s incredibly hard to put down.
The concept is very basic – a ball spins around a rudimentary field and teams of arrows have to shoot it into opposing goals – but within that restricted world lie thousands of split-second decisions, millions of AI mechanics that turn what could have been just a virtual version of air hockey into something profoundly fun.
The trump card behind its success is the way it balances arcade-inspired thrills and thoroughly retro sensibilities. Players control the game with nothing more than an analogue stick and one button, but the tactical possibilities behind those straightforward movements are almost limitless. Sure, tapping your button sends forward single triangles that deflect the ball, but once you learn how to charge your shots, the game changes.
Holding the button down can either build up bigger triangles to slam the ball or squares that act as obstacles, and it takes both quick reflexes and a keen eye for opponents to react, deflecting with their own perfectly timed charge-ups. And as each shoulder-to-shoulder player catches on, with little in the way of a tutorial to guide, Videoball changes from a chaotic free-for-all into some kind of futuristic death match.
Don’t get us wrong: we’re all for you leaving behind your darkened apartment, getting some sun and engaging in virtual thrills through new-fangled smartphone releases, but there’s something to be said about classic old-school video games. Videoball might not be pushing modern gaming boundaries, but it channels a type of thrill not seen often enough these days.