When it comes to local multiplayer games, the PlayStation 4 has become somewhat of a treasure trove. Whether it's the madcap co-op found in Overcooked or the fast-paced archery action of TowerFall Ascension, there's a wealth of excellent titles to fire up when you have company. Hoping to break into your multiplayer gaming rotation is Strikers Edge, a mix of dodgeball and combat that doesn't quite achieve the highs of its stablemates.
The screen is split vertically down the middle, with one or two combatants on either side. You take control of one of eight unique strikers, and must use their various abilities to defeat the opposition. Your main attack is a basic projectile that you aim with the right stick, but you can also charge the throw for a more powerful move. You can embellish your charged attack further with a special move, if you're quick. On the defensive side, you have access to a dodge roll and a limited number of blocks. Dodging and attacking both use stamina as well, forcing a balance between offence and defence.
It's a pretty simple set of tools, but as we've said, each character is unique, with differing special moves that make it worth experimenting to find out who suits you best. Eir, for example, simply throws a much faster and stronger spear when charged, and she can ignite the trail the charged shot leaves behind to deal a little extra damage if you miss. She also heals slightly when you pull off a successful block, which can definitely come in handy in a pinch.
With each striker offering slightly different movesets, it would've been nice to be able to practice with them outside of the main game, but unfortunately, the only way to experiment is to either play online or tackle a character's campaign. It's not the end of the world, however, and each striker's story features unique (if brief) dialogue, so it might be worth playing through them all for the lore. When you do delve into Campaign mode, be warned: the AI is tough. Playing on normal difficulty, we really struggled to defeat our enemies.
It's clear that the focus of the game is on multiplayer, though, and playing with others is a much more enjoyable experience than facing the AI over and over. The online features cross-play with the PC version, but finding an opponent takes a while. We're not sure if this is down to a small pool of players, or whether the matchmaking needs sorting out, but it can take a good few minutes to get into a game. The few online matches we did play were mostly okay, but there was definitely some noticeable lag, which is a bit of a problem in a game that has you aiming precise shots and second guessing your adversary's movements.
Local play is definitely the best experience, then, and it comes close to capturing the lightning in a bottle that makes the best multiplayer titles so wonderful. Sadly, moving around and aiming, while ultimately fine, feels a bit loose, especially for a game so concerned with positioning and accuracy. Strikers Edge is also very light on content, with only four arenas in which to fight and very few modes to try. The stages alter things slightly with different obstacles and hazards, but you'll quickly grow tired of them. They are, at least, nice to look at, the pixel art style lending the game a very pleasant aesthetic.
Although Strikers Edge doesn't quite reach the lofty heights of its peers, it's still a decent multiplayer game with a good premise and fun action. The differences between the characters give the combat just enough nuance to keep things interesting, but a lack of stages or alternate modes may quickly diminish your interest. If you're on the hunt for a new multiplayer title to play with your buddies, this certainly will do the trick, if only for a limited amount of time.