Electron Dance
11Mar/193

Side by Side: BOTOLO

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the last of three bonus episodes.

Joel Goodwin and his son Kai fight over possession of a ball in the abstract sports game BOTOLO (Steam, itch.io). This is a brilliant game with solid feel and a crisp yet slightly organic style - even if I do keep thinking I'm the ball all the time. This is as much about a battle of wits, of feigning action and inaction, of knowing how your opponent plays.

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  1. B​otolo looks great and it reminded me of Witchball with the odd specials/power-ups. Love that Kai was giving you a run for your money and went into hysterics when you popped your speed boost. I’d love to play this with you!

  2. Funky looking game. It looks a little bit like Inversus, both in style and it being a “about a battle of wits, of feigning action and inaction, of knowing how your opponent plays.”

    This is the Yomi that David Sirlin is so fond of, I believe? A mysterious and ineffable quality, to be sure. Conditioning? Getting into your opponent’s head? Lucky guesswork?

    Whatever it is, it makes for fun games. I had the good fortune to spend some time in a Barcade-style establishment in London on the weekend. Much wan, over-hopped ale was consumed and many games were played. Games like Mount Your Friends, hilarious but entirely dependent on your ability to out-qwop your opponents, were entirely Yomi free. It was nomi for yomi.

    But competitive Mario Bros? Fuggedahboudit. That game has Yomi for DAYS. Between the POW block, the safe and deadly states enemies can switch (or be switched) between, the opportunity to interfere with your opponent from above or below, and the need to goal-hang the pipes for the coins that appear (especially delicious when somebody else did all the work to spawn them), anticipating your opponent’s moves is fundamental.

    We had games where we did nothing but try to push one another into harm’s way. Tense stand-offs over the POW. Games where we were so cagey and kill-shy that enemies veritably flooded the level and it became Robotron without guns. What I find fascinating is that the game was never originally designed for competitive PVP. It began life as a co-op game and the competitive mode came later, in SMB3. But the design accommodates the change so well. Top work Shiggsy.

    To get vaguely back on topic: yomi. I’m still not comfortable about the confusion it sometimes throws up between skill and chance (especially when I’m losing). Nor the hostility to perfect information that some of its adherents display, as if a diversity of games somehow impoverished the world. But! The way it essentially turns your friends into levels – into content – is very cool.

  3. Gregg,
    Happy to give this a spin when I see you next! (There’s also a single player mode against a computer player. I haven’t tried it too much, but I feel this is more for sparring practice.)

    CA,
    Inversus. WHAT IS INVERSUS.

    “Getting into your opponent’s head.” With BOTOLO, there’s this split-second decision you have to make, to shield or not to shield, when you have the ball and your opponent is bearing down on you. In the games we played, I tended to assume I was being attacked and click on the shield, but actually my son was pretty good at hanging back and not going in for the kill. If we played more, I think I’d probably respond to this – just sitting there while he feigns attacks. And over time, I can see this constant revision and adaptation in both directions, being interesting.

    But, yeah, it’s a fine line between flipping a coin and actually adapting to your opponent’s moves. When it works, it feels like such magic, but I doubt in the hands of the casual players it really happens.

    I’ve only ever played Mario Bros as co-operative! I never thought about about it as a competitive game and, of course, you can. We played a port on the Atari 8-bit and it always felt a bit sluggish. Had a lot of fun, but we never got past more than a few levels, I think. There were always a lot of “Sorry!” moments as you bumped someone from below…


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