Indie developer NAISU started out developing casual, risqué titles on Steam. NAISU wants to branch out to new audiences, though, starting with the release of Volley Pals. This one couldn’t be more approachable and family friendly. Gamers simply choose from a variety of cartoony characters and then play volleyball on a bevy of outlandish courts. Volley Pals is considered “Early Access” on Steam, though the console versions don’t carry that designation, so it will likely grow and improve over time. At launch, it’s a very small-scale game, but still a fun party game with local co-op support.
Volley Pals doesn’t currently offer a campaign or any unique modes to speak of. The game starts with one court unlocked, and additional courts can be unlocked simply by playing a match of any kind on each court. The only Achievements come from playing on every court once; that’s 10 courts and 10 super easy Achievements. This is a low-priced game, but the developer should still consider adding a tournament mode or other game types to give players more to do.
The actual volleyball gameplay is very simple and easy to grasp, making it great for casual gamers and children. Gameplay takes place on a 2D plane similar to that of the classic arcade and Turbografx-16 game, Super Volleyball. Players can move left or right and jump. That’s it – no diving here. The simplicity really works in Volley Pals’ favor as a party game – up to four local players can hop in and take turns engaging in a nice, silly version of volleyball.
Volley Pals supports playing as singles, doubles, and even 2v1 matches. Only one human is required; AI players can fill in the empty spots. Players choose from four cartoony characters (a boy, a girl, a monkey, and a slimy blob), with three selectable colors for each. Adding bots is easy, but they don’t have selectable difficulties, which would’ve been nice. A co-op game can consist of two human players versus one or two bots, so you can just make a 2v1 game for an easier co-op experience. The menu interface is a bit undercooked, by the way. The game lacks a standard cancel button, so you have to navigate to an on-screen back button to cancel out of menus.
Given Volley Pals’ present lack of modes, the 10 courts and their unique mechanics shoulder the responsibility of instilling longevity. The courts include:
- Beach: Crabs sometimes keep the ball from hitting the sand.
- Library: Levers on the side of the net control a ceiling fan that can blow the ball around.
- Moon: As you’d expect, the moon provides a low gravity playing field.
- Haunted Mansion: A ghost flies around and messes with the ball.
- Science Laboratory: Randomly opening portals can divert the ball from its path.
- Ball Disposal Facility: When the ball passes by the lever and buttons in the background, it can change the player’s speed and ability to jump, as well as the ball’s size.
- Mecha Wars: Whenever players from one side hit the ball, a giant robot’s hand goes through a game of rock-paper-scissors. Winning the rock-paper-scissors bout will net the team an extra point.
- Sewer: Buttons on the floor will raise or lower the pipe (net) in the center. Players can even invade the opposing side when the pipe goes low enough!
- Arcade Game: Inspired by Pong or something, players control their normal characters and mirrored versions on the ceiling at the same time.
- Custom Court: Change 8 different variables, including court size and ceiling height, to customize the experience.
The Custom Court is particularly cool since it mixes things up so much. That said, it would be even better if players could save different configurations for future play (and maybe customize the background).
NAISU is off to a great start with Volley Pals. Even though the game is currently a bit threadbare from a modes perspective, it offers plenty of party-style fun with friends. The ability to team up against the AI is especially welcome. Whether or not an actual campaign is in the cards for the future, we’d love to see tournaments, custom court saving, and a cancel button for menus added in future updates. Arcade-style volleyball games are surprisingly scarce nowadays, so look to Volley Pals for a simple, silly time with friends.
Xbox and Steam codes were provided by the publisher for this review.
The Co-Op Experience: Two human players can play against 1-2 bots in individual 2v1 and 2v2 matches.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.