Fantastic couch multiplayer experiences will never be made obsolete, and will never go out of style. On the contrary, they always seem in short supply. However, during the last few years, after a longstanding love-affair with online multiplayer, good ol' fashioned local multiplayer experiences have come back in style (just like the old gum you like), and now we have genre staples such as TowerFall Ascension, Gang Beasts and Overcooked, all of which can secure a bulletproof evening's worth of entertainment for friends and family. Now, though, a new challenger has arrived, which looks to lay itself in the slipstream of the aforementioned greats and provide more local multiplayer mayhem for the masses.
Strikers Edge seems, at first glance at least, to do exactly what both TowerFall Ascension and Gang Beasts have done to become so successful. It's simple, easy to understand, and it won't take even the most inexperienced player long to get a grasp of the controls and the conceit. It's dodgeball, basically, but with weapons. Admittedly, the concept sounds funny, and for a while it is.
Each player stands on one side of the screen in a sectioned-off arena, and from here the one and only goal is to hurl weapons at your opponent until one of you is ultimately defeated. Of course, there are mechanics in place to make sure this isn't a dull and tedious chore. Each player may hurl weapons constantly in order to ensure pressure is put on the opponent, but the fun is how you deflect and avoid incoming projectiles by using either a well-timed dodge or even a block.
But that being said, that's basically it. There are explosive barrels placed in each of the two sections, giving each match a level of unpredictability, but on the whole, the simplistic structure, while entertaining, ultimately lacks the interaction needed to make a longer-lasting impression. Yes, there's eight different player characters, each with a different style, but ultimately, it's about spamming one button while avoiding being hit. It's boiled-down, not just in the way it offers a seemingly simply mechanical setup that lends itself well to intense couch sessions, but also in the way it offers this formula to the player.
Luckily, there's tons of charm to be found in both the visuals and the sound design, and that'll keep players engaged. Graphically, Strikers Edge takes a page out of TowerFall's book, and presents itself in a sleek, albeit familiar, pixelated fashion. It certainly looks the part, and the arenas on display are all dramatically different, taking players from deep forests to the decks of flying airships. All the while, a corny but well-suited soundtrack accompanies each round, and it creates an almost manga-like aura around each match.
In true fighting game fashion, each of the eight player-characters has their own "campaigns". We put that in quotation marks because it's basically just fighting the remaining characters in duels, with a thin layer of narrative masquerading as a story. It's not much a story, however, and the vast majority of Strikers Edge's entertainment value is found in playing with and against other people, be that off- or online. And you can have fun here, especially if you jive well with a friend, someone with whom you can have intense 1v1 skirmishes where you continuously dodge and block each other's attacks. It's perhaps less so when playing online, especially 2v2, where it's more chaos than strategy, more unpredictable than refined.
So, ultimately, the main conceit of Strikers Edge is a smart one. Not only that, it works well the majority of the time. It even looks and sounds the part. Yet somehow it lacks the genuine simplistic entertainment value of the genre giants, and it isn't nuanced enough to warrant playing it for extended periods of time. It both lacks depth and the simple "pick up and play" setup which makes for a great, casual local multiplayer game.