Reviewed on PS4 Pro, also available on PC
Release Date – 29th May 2018
Developer – Stitch Heads Entertainment
Genre – Action/Sports
Hailed as ‘competitive multiplayer pinball’ Kabounce is a fast paced, action/sports title in which players control their ball from a 3rd person perspective and compete in short, 4 on 4 arena based sessions. Developed and self-published by a small team of 11 developers at Stitch Heads Entertainment (6 full time and 5 part-time) it certainly is a unique concept as players, bounce, spin, dash and smash against their opposition in order to win.
Kabounce is a really easy game to pick up. After running through a short tutorial (which runs on your first load up) you are taught the basics of ball movement such as jumping, slamming, dashing etc. In no time you will be whizzing around the area, wracking up point and getting basic combos. What this game does incredibly well is lower the entry bar for new players but really ramp it up for mastery, there is a layer of depth hidden in the advanced moves which lends itself fantastically for high-level play.
At launch, Kabounce comes with 3 modes of play at launch, Quickmatch, Challenges and Custom. With Ranked matches unlocking on the 29th June 2018.
Quickmatch is the real meat of the game at launch. A 4 v 4, quickfire frenzy where your objective is to ‘capture’ bumpers, flippers, hoops etc by bashing, jumping or dashing into them. Capturing these changes them to your corresponding team’s colours (think Splatoon with pinballs), increases your score multiplier and builds your score ready to be banked, which can only be done at certain points of the match when the gate is score gate is open. It sounds incredibly simple in its conception, but where it gets interesting is the ability to eliminate other players with a slam, stealing their points so that you can bank them yourself. It creates an amazing layer of strategy and opens the game to various styles of play. Do you go all out for the biggest combo possible, amassing the most points? Or do you camp the scoring gate waiting to steal the opposing team’s points? I’ve seen games literally swing in the last 10 seconds of play and it really lends itself to some great clutch victories.
Challenges are short parkour-style courses that challenge the player to complete small, course sections of varying difficulty. It’s against the clock in this mode with Bronze, Silver and Gold on offer depending on how quick you are. Bronze and Silver are relatively easy to get, but those Golds are going to take ninja-like reflexes and a little bit of ingenuity to obtain. There are also special purple ‘dev stars’ on offer if you can beat Stitch Heads internal times and these really do require zen-like skills.
Custom is a more relaxed quick play environment. Here you can choose your arena, time limit, bot difficulty etc. It is a great place to practice and also learn the best lines for combos.
There is also a fantastic amount of customisation options for your pinball. You start with just an ordinary ball and through play and leveling up, you earn ‘Loot Balls’. These can be opened to reveal such goodies such as sunglasses, afros, different bodies, trails etc. You can really add your own flavour to your pinball.
Developed using Unreal Engine 4, Kabounce has a very distinctive, ‘TRON’ inspired art-style. It really does look great when it is in motion. What is particularly impressive is the pace at which everything runs. I didn’t notice any slowdown or frame drops while whizzing about which is vitally important when playing a competitive arena based game.
There are some great little effects in play, such as the trails off the back of the balls, the explosions when an opponent is eliminated, the colours constantly changing as bumpers are captured. It really is a treat.
Kabounce has a suitably matched techno soundtrack that fits the action well. Sound effects are sharp and punchy and the trademark ‘ding’ of your pinball hitting a bumper is front and center. What I really liked about the audio implementation is the controller sound effects that are linked to your pinball customisation. Each one seems to have its own sound which is great.
Obviously, a title like Kabounce is going to live and die by how good its multiplayer is and how smooth it runs. Thankfully dedicated servers and great net code are in play. Games load incredibly quick and I never experienced any lag in over 6 hours of play.
Cross-play with PC is enabled allowing for a large pool of players but even if there aren’t many players at a particular point of time, games are populated by bots so that you can get into the action quickly. Stitch Heads have done a great job in this regards.
Local split-screen multiplayer is also catered for up to 4 players, either competing against each other or going online together to play against other teams.
Kabounce is one of those rare multiplayer games that has that ‘one more go feel’. Incredibly easy to play but difficult to master, I can see Kabounce going on to get a cult following. Graphics are sharp and punchy and it’s really fun to play. It could do with a little more content and game modes but I suspect the developers will be implementing these down the line. Such as the ranked mode coming at the end of June.
If you’re a fan of games such as Rocket League and enjoy the whole ‘quick fire’ arena multiplayer scene, then Kabounce is going to be right up your street.
- Dedicated servers
- Great graphics and frame rate
- Easy to play, hard to master
- Has that 'one more game' feeling
- Great amount of customistation for your pinball
- Could do with a few more game modes
- Only 5 arenas at launch