Despite an utterly confusing announcement trailer, I was intrigued by the cross-platform online multiplayer game Knockout City. The game has a neo/futuristic 50's vibe, which is novel, and unlike a lot of games it's actually not free to play. It's nice that you don't have to worry about buying game passes regularly, and the game is also free to try. The seasonal game pass unlocks random cosmetics, which are fun and give the game a good amount of personality.
The core gameplay of Knockout City is surprisingly fresh and robust. At its core this is 3v3 dodgeball, but the design avoids so many issues compared to a game like, say, Fortnite, that make them either overly complex or have long stretches where nothing much happens. In Knockout City matches are timed or to a certain number of wins (e.g. 2 out of 3), whichever comes first, and instead of having to avoid bullets that you can't even really see let alone react to as in typical games of this genre, the balls in Knockout City are easy to spot when they're coming towards you. As with real-life dodgeball, there's this really unique mechanic in this game where you can catch a ball being thrown at you and then hurl it back, and this boomerang type of action really makes the game feel completely unique. There are different types of throws (straight, curved to the sides, or curved vertically) and speeds depending on long you charge your throw, and each match features a different type of special ball (e.g. bombs that explode or "moon" balls that make you jump with less gravity), along with the regular balls. Managing the balls is a big part of the strategy, and in a pinch your teammate can curl up into a ball and you can throw him/her, which has its own risks but is a fun new twist. The stages are really well designed and have fun gimmicks like a train that appears occassionally and will kill anyone it touches, and they strike a really good balance of being big enough to have a number of features, while also small enough to enable you to quickly get back to the action.
In the end after our free trial was up, my friends and I decided to buy the game and keep playing it, and we've been continuing to have fun through season 1. Even though it's a crowded field, Velan Studios has absolutely succeeded in creating a new IP that's great for newcomers and casual players, and also clearly has a lot of depth for more hardcore players. I agree with the NintendoLife review that the game at launch feels slightly light on modes, but I'm sure they have a robust long-term plan to keep players engaged and Season 2 starts later this month. Happy to have this one in rotation, and I will definitely be keeping tabs on how it develops in the future.