13th Jan2015

‘#IDARB’ Review (Xbox One)

by Paul Metcalf

IDARB-screen

If you took away all the pretty graphics from the video games we play everything on the screen would be simple blocks.  Just looking at a game like Thomas was Alone shows that even in this simple form a good game can take these blocks, give them character, and even a narrative that keeps the audience engrossed.  #IDARB (Yes, with the hashtag) is a game that started off with a red box, then one day a developer asked Twitter what the next step should be…that was just the start of the chaos to come.

#IDARB (It Draws a Red Box) is the creation of Other Ocean Interactive, but I’m sure they would happily agree that the inspiration for what the game has evolved into has come from the gaming community that has built around it through the use of social media.  From being a simple game with blocks fighting over a ball in an insane basketball like battle in an 8-bit platform environment the creativity on display on show not only by the developers but the community itself has changed #IDARB into something special.

Even before starting to play (though you can jump straight) you are able to create your own players, teams and music for use in the game.  With the 8-bit styling, the graphical design tools available are easy to use and with a little imagination the player can change their character into anything they can draw.  Community designs can be incorporated into the game through the use of QT codes and your creations can be shared too.  A cookbook is available with recipes for players and there even though the game isn’t fully released yet there does appear to be a strong community building up around this aspect of the game.  When multiplayer games rely on a strong community to gain it success, this is a very good sign for the future of #IDARB.

Released in February 2015 on Xbox One as one of the Games for Gold hopefully this is a game that people won’t pass by, because it deserves the recognition that it should get.  The description for the game is “a chaotic 8-player eSport jumping jetpack future arena ball game” and its inspiration is taken from Bomberman and Super Smash Bros.  Don’t let the eSport side of things come across as negative though for the less sociable of gamer #IDARB is still a welcoming experience, with a solo player option available (which I will admit was my main focus).

Although it is intended as a multi-player game the solo play options don’t feel just like an afterthought to the main game, they are still fun, addictive and insanely chaotic.  Used as a good way to introduce yourself to the game and its mechanics there are plenty of options to add more chaos to the matches, but I would say that the game needs more levels in the future.  Looking at the way the game constantly evolves though I wouldn’t be surprised at all if these appear.  The solo aspect is fun, and the scripted bickering between teams on the loading screens adds comedy to the build-up of each match.  For the gambling fans there is also a fantasy match side where you can bet on a team then watch the chaos ensue as the matches are played out.

With the social aspect of the game you constantly see a rolling Twitter feed on the bottom of the screen showing comments people have made online.  This is another nice aspect to the game, and one that opens up the game even more as even when you are playing you feel you are in connection to the community.  With the multiplayer aspect of the game the ability to stream through Twitch is fully integrated and easy to use, with Twitch users even able to interact with your matches.  Using a selection of hashtags disruptions can be created, even to the extremes of being Rick Rolled.  For those who want to experience this without streaming, an option to have hashtags randomly activated within the game can be activated with a time between hashtag activations available to at least try to control the insanity (set it at 5 seconds and watch the game go truly out of control).

With up to 8 players able to play, even on local multi-player thing tend to get busy on the screen and this is one weakness I do find in the game, it is easy to get lost in the chaos.  Having to focus not only on your tiny little player but also the ball, it can get hard sometimes to keep your player in the action and have your eyes focus not only on them but the ball too.  All this requires though really is a bit of concentration, but when the hashtags are being thrown around and the environment is constantly being destroyed it gets confusing at times, but thankfully not too annoying.

Even in solo play #IDARB has an addictiveness to it because of just how fun it is, built with an open ear to the community needs it has evolved into something simple that nostalgically looks back to the earliest games like Pong, Joust and even the original Mario Bros. and this is where its beauty lies.  The simple nature of the mechanics, the creativity it allows and the community that is building up around it make for a welcoming experience for both solo and multi-player fans and there only seems to be one rule…have fun.

****½  4.5/5

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