The AFL season may be over for 2023, but in Melbourne, Aussie Rules never sleeps, and one game that AFL fans will want to keep an eye on is Footy Bash, a brutal but incredibly addictive arcade Aussie Rules game.
Footy Bash is the work of Melbourne studio Danger Thumbs and it was one of the titles on everyone’s lips at PAX Australia over the weekend, with the co-op game constantly having a strong crowd of onlookers. Incredibly, what we played is just six months of work from three developers, with Danger Thumbs’ Daniel Utkovic telling me that they are aiming to release the game by round one of the 2024 AFL season on at least PC and Switch, but are hopeful of launching on other consoles and mobile as well.
The best way to explain what Footy Bash is that it’s an AFL version of games such as NBA Jam and Super Blood Hockey, favouring fun and brutality over skill and finesse with a pixel art aesthetic. A match of Footy Bash sees up to four players battle it out for victory, either against one another or the computer. Teams consist of 10 players, and while the aim is to kick more goals than your opposition just like normal Aussie Rules, players can dash, take huge speccys, and clobber one another, complete with pixelated blood spatters.
Kicking a snag is no easy feat given your opponent can put you on your arse with a big hit, and players need to charge up their kick if want to get good purchase on it. Furthermore, marking the ball won’t stop play, but timing a mark correctly will knock your opponent to the ground, providing a great opportunity to surge forward, especially when using the dash feature to get clear of the opposition. It’s a simple gameplay loop but one that is incredibly addictive and fun.
The idea for Footy Bash came from the developers’ experience playing AFL games on the SNES and sports titles like NBA Jam, which Utkovic says “perfectly bridged that gap between sports fans and gamers,” and that, “Aussie Rules really fits nicely into the arcade theme.”
While Footy Bash is designed as a great couch co-op game, Danger Thumbs says that an online mode is high up on its list of features of projects, as “the idea of online tournaments is something we really get excited about when discussing the game.” With roughly six months left until Danger Thumbs wants to have Footy Bash in the public’s hands, the team will use that time to add more features and modes to the game, with Utkovic revealing that they are working on a story mode, “where players can build up their team and stadiums,” and more special abilities to give the gameplay a bit more variety.
When asked about potential licensing issues around player likeness, Utkovic says that when the game releases players will have the ability to create their own team and customise things like player appearance, guernsey design and colours.
“If you want to make your local legends or your own likeness as the captain of your favourite team, we want you to be able to do that,” explains Utkovic, who adds that the team is being very diligent as it doesn’t want to have any licensing issues.
As for the reception to Footy Bash at PAX Aus, Utkovic says that despite the thought of showing off the game for the first time being quite daunting, the weekend was a huge success for the team.
“The coolest moments for us were from people who were not really fans of Aussies Rules but came back to play the game two or three times.”
The team at Danger Thumbs have one last message for those who checked out the game at PAX.
“We’d like to thank each person again who tried our game during the amazing PAX weekend. Every cheer, cheeky bit of banter, laugh and smile will forever mark this as the coolest day in our gaming lives. We hope you all continue to enjoy the game as we develop it.”
It’s hard to put into words how much fun the WellPlayed team had playing this at PAX Australia, and if it wasn’t for all the other cracking games, we would have been happy smashing one another all weekend. We can’t wait to get our hands on Danger Thumbs’ creation when it does launch in 2024.