Handball 21 – Review
Follow Genre: Sports, Handball
Developer: EKO Software
Publisher: Nacon, Bigben Interactive
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Tested on: PC

Handball 21 – Review

Site Score
Good: Nice customization options for your team
Bad: The game feels rushed and somewhat broken in the gameplay with twitchy animations
User Score
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 2.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Handball is one of those sports you don’t really hear about. Not many people watch it and even less play it themselves. Knowing this, it’s great that there’s a niche market for games representing sports like these. However, games such as FIFA and the NBA have been around for longer and perfected the gameplay up to the point that they essentially release the same game over and over each year. Handball clearly does not have this formula yet, as it got a Handball 16, Handball 17, and now Handball 21.


Handball 21 feels a lot like it should play like a FIFA game, so in this review, we will compare it to a big title like that every now and again. Obviously, playing handball isn’t like playing soccer. With the rules of both sports being different, which influences the gameplay, it doesn’t affect the final score of Handball 21. Now, that being said, there’s something incredibly frustrating going on with Handball 21; It feels totally rushed in its own way. Whether you are a new player to the Handball videogames or have never even seen a real-life handball game being played, Handball 21, for some reason, refuses to give you a tutorial. So, the best way to “learn” the game is completely by trial and error in any official mode. These modes include solo (career), quick match, and tournament.

Creating a team and playing the career mode is the closest Handball 21 gets to a story. Teams are largely based on real players, which brings the game a bit closer to a realistic approach to the sport. The customization options are very nice and fun to mess around with, as you decide your logo, team colors, and details on the sportswear you will dress your players in. After completing a team, the game lacks any other form of a story aside from the progression you make in the career mode.


At first glance, Handball 21 is alright! The models of real players might be a bit bland, but they are definitely there and recognizable. The field you play on is alright as well, but you really can’t say that Handball 21 is a top-notch sports game just by its looks. When you play, animations are definitely not smoothened out and players might suddenly change the position of their arms as they i.e. defend or walk. It’s done with such twitchy movements, one might even compare it to games from the PS2 era. Then, there’s also stuff like passes without any movement and multiple players who look the same.


Initially, starting up the game feels good. Two killer tracks are coming your way and they get your blood pumping, ready to play a game. Then you realize these are the only two tracks, and that the game doesn’t really offer a lot music-wise. With each goal you make, you get some bombastic tune, which can be charming at first. The supporting crowd is comparable to FIFA’s, aside from all the classic supporters chanting sounds. Most of the sounds you expect are there, but what’s lacking is hearing your players put down a certain effort. Then again, as the game feels a bit rushed, this is not really a surprise.


It’s convenient to know the rules of Handball, as that’s what you’ll mainly need to know in a Handball sports game. Handball is a sport about close-range attack and defense. There’s basically a middle field and that’s only for the attackers. Then there’s half a circle around the goal, where the defenders stay to block the ball, and, of course, the goalie who’s the last hope for the team. You generally have to dribble the ball like in basketball or get three free steps to throw the ball. When the opposite team gets the ball, the set-up gets flipped to the other side of the field, where the attackers become the defenders. Looking at these rules, Handball 21 generally puts down an accurate handball experience.

Please note that if you play this game on your PC you are required to use a controller which isn’t properly mentioned on the Steam page. Generally, while the game is certainly functional, the lack of a tutorial is infuriating, as you won’t properly get a feel for what each button does.  As with multiple sports games, you can use different buttons to do different types of passes or goal-targeted shots. Think of lobbing the ball, doing jumping shots, and throwing low from the hip. These are generally good for tactical plans but it feels like the game doesn’t really want you to use them, as the defense is very basic and your attack patterns don’t make you feel like you are enough in control to actually perform them with bravado.

With the limited defense patterns in mind, the defenders will very weirdly, statically, push your attacker out of the ring in a stuttering motion if he gets too close. When you hit a defender with the ball, it’s almost like hitting a wall. The goalie gameplay mechanics are better, as the attacker and the defender get a very short time period (about a second) to aim for the part of the goal they want to hit. This means being on the edge of your seat when a goal could happen, but other than that, the game just feels a bit broken and weird. This means that, while some fans might see something in a handball game, this one could have been so much better that it’s a real shame that it is not. On top of that, the game uses a system of booster packs like FIFA does, and it just feels like there’s no place or need for that here.


For a game that has its focus on a niche market of handball fans and people who might be interested in handball, Handball 21 sure made a lot of weird decisions. With bad polishing, twitchy animations, and gameplay that generally feels a little bit broken to fully grasp the depth of sport, it’s debatable if fans will like the game anyway. As there are no other proper options available for those who really want a game such as this, we’d still recommend waiting until this one goes into the sales bin.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 2.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)
Handball 21 - Review, 2.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

I'm a game designer, developer, and reviewer. I've been reviewing for 3rd-strike.com since 2017.

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