By Carlos “Jefferson Steelflex” Flores
Not since Electronic Arts’ 2003 release of Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup has the world had a chance to play an interactive experience that remotely resembled the sport of quidditch. Now, thanks to developer Nate Archer a new game has emerged from the slew of indie games that flood the Steam libraries of PC gamers every year: Courtyard Broomball.
Courtyard Broomball builds off of the nostalgia of the Backyard Sports series of games – for those who haven’t played these games before, they take existing professional players from major sports like baseball, hockey, and soccer and revert them into their youth league-playing ages to play their signature sports in backyards around the world. With the quidditch version of the game spending a significant amount of time being called “Backyard Quidditch”, potential copyright issues led to Archer changing the name and several aspects of the game itself to protect his creation, like renaming the “snitch” to the “snotch” and removing all mentions of quidditch from the game’s commentary track.
The standard quidditch dorm room, complete with twin XL bed, mini-fridge, and bong in the desk.
From the opening screen – yes, this is the opening screen; no title screen or anything like that – we are introduced to the game’s style, emulating that of the Backyard Sports series, with the clubhouse present across the various games being replaced with the quintessential college dorm room. The book that links to the tutorial glows in the corner, helpfully drawing the eyes of new players over to it.
The tutorial wouldn’t let me enter my full name since there was a character limit. 2/10.
The tutorial is extensive enough to cover the rules and the basic gameplay elements. It’s also one of the only places where specific quidditch gameplay names can be seen, with names changed to avoid copyright issues. Most of the in-game commentary is vague enough to avoid the ire of copyright infringement lawyers while still staying relevant to the sport of quidditch. One issue present in the tutorial is that while it does teach you the core elements of the gameplay itself, it doesn’t teach you everything you need to know about what the rest of the game offers. Things like some of the strategy introductions are only displayed off in the corner in small and inconspicuous question blocks. After completing the tutorial, you have the option to throw together a one-time roster to play a pick-up game or put together a roster and play a full season.
Best name. Best logo. 12/10.
The gameplay itself is fantastic. It’s controlled via mouse and keyboard, with the WASD keys to move the player and the mouse to aim shots, passes, and beats. The player has the option to either control chaser or beater play, being able to switch between the two easily using the CTRL key. The only position that is not playable is the seeker. While the seeker is a part of your roster, you never actually take control of them at any point, which detracts from the overall quidditch/broomball experience. This leaves the catch itself up to the result of a random number generator, influenced by seeker ratings, with a tongue-in-cheek chant of “RNG!” being called out at different times.
While this variation of seeker play can add a new level of tension to a snitch range match, it can also add an annoying sense of helplessness when the result of a game can be left to something that can feel completely arbitrary. Both the chaser and beater play have solid movement, passing, and physical play, including the classic Backyard-style power ups that give an arcade-style feel to each game. Power ups include an air horn that knocks everyone on the opposing team off their brooms except for bludger-carrying beaters and an aggro-bludger that proceeds to beat everyone on the opposing team by itself.
HECK THE RULES!!
The in-game commentary isn’t much to write home about, but it’s not too annoying either. Play-by-play comes up during specific game events, like a goal or a timely beat around seeker play. However, you will hear the same few taunts and schoolyard cheers from players that can get annoying quickly, with the exception of the high pitched threat, “Do you wanna catch these hands!?” The game’s rules are enforced to a certain point, which I can imagine would help keep things stable in a world of a constantly changing quidditch rulebook. There are still some minor blips in what can be done, like being able to explore the world outside the pitch boundaries when carrying the ball.
Check out the replacement announcement trailer here, minus the trashy team name included in the first version.
While it’s hard to tell whether or not this game will catch the eye of outsiders to the sport, Courtyard Broomball is a faithful homage to the world of the Backyard Sports series as well as the world of quidditch. The art style and cartoon-like feel capture the game well, and players can expect updates and additions to the game in the future. There’s no doubt that Backyard Sports-loving members of the quidditch community will enjoy this unique twist on an old franchise.
Courtyard Broomball is available through Steam for $9.99.