Review: Graveball (PC)

Developer: Goin’ Yumbo Games

Publisher: 3D Realms

Genre: Sports, Brawler

Platforms: PC

Price: $4.99

After a total of two years of development, Graveball is coming to Steam. Riley Dirksen, the one-man band behind the game, realized he wanted to develop games and went out of his way to quit his main job as IT support and learn all about programming. Using Unreal Engine 4, Dirksen spent a good long time building his game, implementing online multiplayer along the way. After being given the green light by Steam, it is finally completed and will be up for sale on July 31.

My goblin mustache you a question.

Content Guide

Violence: The essence of Graveball is to punish your foes and beat them down with sinister-looking clubs. To stop the opposition from scoring, you will have to kill them by bludgeoning them to death. One swipe of the club and blood goes flying, leaving your opponent lifeless on the floor. Sometimes, a limb will be torn off and go flying. Other times, your opponent’s entire head will come off. Blood squirts everywhere after each swing meets its target. Once a team scores, the ball explodes, sending all players in the vicinity flying—killing them in the process.

Carnage!

One major technique in Graveball is the ability to commit suicide. Your goblin carries around a club for bludgeoning and a knife to slice his own throat. When you commit suicide, you become a ghost and gain the ability to move about the field much faster. You can come back to life at the push of a button, making this a viable strategy when defending your turf. When you slice your own throat, blood comes out and you fall to the floor, dead.

Spiritual Content: The game’s theme is based around the supernatural. The fields you play on include a graveyard that have ghosts and graves in the background. The team members are all goblins with the ability to kill themselves and come back to life at their own command. When you die, you become a ghost and drift around the map. The ball itself is a human skull. The score posts have decorations of skulls around the edges and all throughout the different maps skulls can be seen as general decor.

Here comes the ball

Negative themes: Graveball’s use of suicide as a game mechanic and strategy to win is clever, but cannot slide through our scope of content to be concerned about. While it does not involve human characters, and they come back to life regardless of, suicide is a very serious topic, especially in current events.

Review

Graveball is a sports game, as the title suggests. Matches are timed, three versus three, and whoever scores the most points within the set time limit wins. Games take place in one of three fields of play: a grievous graveyard, a rainy rooftop, or a cursed crypt. Six goblins populate the field at a time; three goblins on one side, three on the other. The objective is to pick up the white skull and drop it in your opponent’s goal line. If it lies untouched for two seconds, your team scores.

Got em!

The trick is to prevent your opponents from retrieving the skull or removing it from their goal line before two seconds pass. Various mechanics come into play here. All goblins carry clubs. One swing from these kills anyone in your way, friend and foe alike. Anyone who is assassinated by another goblin must wait a respawn period, which is anywhere between three and five seconds. During that time, that dead goblin becomes a ghost and can float around the map, choosing a good spot to respawn.

If you stay a ghost and don’t respawn before your other teammates die, you lose!

All players can immediately become ghosts by doing the deed themselves and slicing their own throats. When a goblin kills himself, he instantly becomes a ghost, but can also come back to life immediately; there is no respawn time for suicides. This allows for a lot of strategy and wit when retrieving the skull or even intercepting a throw. While a ghost, any goblin can obtain the scythe, usually placed in the center of the map. Once you come back to life, you will retain it and be able to use it. The scythe is a highly useful weapon and has a wider range of attack, making it easier to kill your opponents.

The environments where games take place are detailed and feel alive. The rooftop field is a bit dull, with only rain to really add to the ambience. Graveyard and Crypt levels are spooky and have details like tombstones, ghostly specters, and an old, run-down chapel in the background. While graphics are not AAA level, it was created using Unreal Engine 4, which adds a smooth texture to all things, making it look clean, yet expertly crafted. My only gripe is that the animations and emotes that the goblins do sometimes feel robotic and lifeless.

Here’s the rooftop stage. A bit basic.

Graveball has several modes including an online mode, a custom game mode, and a versus bots mode. If gaming with a friend—or with up to five other friends—you can customize the map, the time limit, and a few other small options. In Versus Bots mode, it allows you to play against AI. There is easy, medium and hard, with medium being pretty difficult, even after getting used to the controls. Online mode seems to work well, since I was able to play with a friend through the network.

Launching the dead

Online play worked well and performance was satisfactory. Despite my friend having a little lag on his end, it may have been due to his internet since I experienced none. It is difficult to test online multiplayer to its full potential since not many have access to the game yet. But from what I can tell, it’s smooth and easy to join a party. For the most part, the game feels like a mix of Rocket League and Mutant Football League, which are both excellent online games and work well with online play.

The soundtrack of the game has a bone-chilling feeling, but one that also sounds like it’s the monster mash. We’re greeted by an organ—since every scary soundtrack needs organ—and it plays a haunting melody which introduces the mood well. If you’d like to check out the main track and the artist behind it, you can find it here.

The results screen

To conclude, Graveball is a small, simple game with easy-to-learn mechanics. It’s not a loaded game, but it’s definitely worth five dollars. If anything, it’s worth picking up and playing a few rounds with friends. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Rocket League and Mutant Football League, as this game is a fun mix of those two, only with less content and humble graphics.

Review code generously provided by Stride PR.

The Bottom Line

 

 

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John Campbell

Based in San Diego, California, John enjoys working, writing, eating with friends and family, and gaming - both board games and video games. After earning a Bachelor's Degree in Humanities, he currently works in IT, but hopes to one day become a full time college professor and writer. His recent favorite games include Persona 5 and NieR: Automata.

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