#IDARB? Yeah, it’s not the catchiest name in the world, but I tell you this much, catchy name or not, it might just be one of 2015’s most addictive video games. Created by Other Ocean Interactive and, well, the internet, #IDARB started as a red box that developer, Mike Mika (of Donkey Kong: Pauline Edition fame), put online and asked the internet what he should do with it. While that has rather unsurprisingly led to something of an artistic cluster f*ck, in gameplay terms, it has led to something that feels simultaneously retro and new, polished but erratic, tight but ultimately chaotic. #IDARB is understandably a lot of things, but above all else (and most importantly), it’s really rather good.
Remove all of the background noise, the crazy customisation and the power of the internet etc etc, and at its heart, #IDARB is essentially a platformer come sports game. If I were to make a mathematical equation to describe the game (and sometimes you just have to use a mathematical equation to best describe your opinion), it would probably be Smash Bros. + basketball + football x retro = #IDARB. Yep, that just about sums it up. It looks like an Atari 2400 game on crack cocaine and plays in much the same way.
There are two goals and up to 8 players and despite the relatively simplistic controls, things can get rather manic rather fast. Looking more like a rudimentary platformer ala Donkey Kong, players move across the stage at high speed (it really is more of a stage than a pitch), as they attempt to take down opposing players and steal away the ball for their team. Again, it’s relatively simplistic stuff, but with the power to attack other players via a simple shock move, a powered up ‘fizz’ ability that can send opposing players spiralling off in every direction and a points system linked to the difficulty of the shot taken, there is certainly a method to the madness and, while just about anyone will be able to enjoy its simplistic fundamentals, there is no doubting that there is enough under the hood for a well drilled team to take a group of amateurs to the cleaners.
Outside of the core gameplay which is fast, slick and highly entertaining, #IDARB’s big draw comes in the form of its customisation and trolling abilities. Already home to an array of colourful 8-bit characters, the ability to create your own players, teams and songs is both simplistic and intuitive while the open-ended nature of development has ensured that, customisation or not, this is a game of almost breathtaking artistic diversity and utter randomness.
From the old school FBI warning to the techno soundtrack and it’s absolutely fantastic announcer, #IDARB is nothing if not surprising. Naturally, thanks to the ability of players to troll their friends games via hashtag inputs, the surprises rarely let up. From blocking the goal to sending in additional characters and setting off random events, under the right circumstances, #IDARB has all the potential to be something truly special indeed and undoubtedly unique.
While that is obviously a positive, it does lead in to the game’s biggest issue – the need for the right conditions. With friends on the sofa, beers in hand and other friends trolling your game, #IDARB is nothing short of spectacular, but on your own? Yeah, things are quite so great. The mechanics are solid enough to make the limited 1 player mode entertaining enough, but this is a game that really has to be played locally with friends. Yes, there is an online mode, but even here, #IDARB is at it’s at its best when you’ve got 4 local players going up against another team of 4 online. At the moment, that is something very tricky to come by, but with this game due to fall under Microsoft’s free Games with Gold promotion in February, expect the player base to grow exponentially in the coming weeks.
The haphazard nature and sheer randomness of its audio/visual design won’t be for everyone and things can certainly get more than a little hectic with 8 players on screen, but fundamentally, this is a fantastic sport / platformer hybrid with all the potential for some of the finest local multiplayer you are likely to come across in 2015. Yes, the conditions have to be just so to get the best out of it, but when the planets align, there really isn’t anything else quite like #IDARB.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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