Version played: Xbox One.
Available on: Xbox One.
#IDARB is insane. That’s the first and most important thing you need to know about this indie collaboration between developers Other Ocean Interactive and the people of the internet. The second is that #IDARB, according to the game’s own website, takes inspiration from Bomberman and Smash Bros, but plays like Fifa or NBA on cocaine. So far so good then.
Anyone familiar with 8-bit NES-era gaming will find something instantly familiar about #IDARB’s style. The arena eSports gameplay on offer is chaotic and fun, and supports up to 8 players on a single Xbox One console, or online. The concept of #IDARB’s sport is simple: two teams compete against each other, trying to get the ball into the other team’s goal. It’s a basic idea that makes #IDARB easy to pick up and play, but difficult to master; skill is needed, which explains why I’m so rubbish at it!
#IDARB offers a few different modes, all of which show off the game’s integration with social media and the internet. #IDARB has Twitter and Twitch ingrained in its core (the game’s name is even a hashtag!) and interaction via these social mediums is vital for the game. #IDARB’s single-player is the most simple mode, teaching gamers the basics of the sport such as running, jumping, shooting, scoring and tackling other players. As you progress through the single-player campaign you get to play with AI team mates allowing the game to teach you how to pass as well. That’s all there is to #IDARB’s gameplay, although each of these moves is difficult to master in full, but its through the multiplayer modes that #IDARB really comes to life. That and it’s insane and completely random, but thoroughly enjoyable, half-time shows.
The competitive multiplayer modes (both online and locally) are where you’ll begin to understand if you’re good at #IDARB, or if you just think you’re good. Scoring may just be a matter of getting the ball into the goal, but you get more points if you can do this with skill and style. It’s not just your distance from the goal that matters when you shoot and score either, with the number of bounces the ball takes before it reaches the goal multiplying your score. This means 15 point shots can be common and one team can go from leading to chasing very quickly. It’s during this competitive play that passing becomes more important and good teamwork between individual players is essential to scoring big and winning the game.
#IDARB is an arcade game that takes social integration to a new level, and this can have a big impact on matches. Running across the bottom of #IDARB’s gameplay screens are a series of Twitter and Twitch messages relating to the game (be warned – the language can get pretty extreme), and this shows the extent that the developers behind #IDARB are trying to integrate the social nature of the internet into their game world. If the right words and codes occur within your #IDARB match then certain gameplay modifiers will occur. These modifiers, called hashbombs, range from having all the lights turned out in the arena, leaving just the glow-in-the-dark ball and your player indicator on show, to having the arena fill up with water. Some hashbombs have less impact, such as the one that has Rick Astley (the perpetual internet meme) wonder across the screen, but their seemingly random nature matches the tone of a game that uses random strangers both in development and in the mechanics themselves. Overall hashbombs are an interesting type of social integration that have entertaining, if sometimes frustrating and overly annoying, results.
This social interaction ties directly into one of #IDARB’s other game modes that allows you to pit two AI teams against each other and gamble with other players on who the winner will be. There’s no actual money involved, but hashbombs can be used by yourself or others to try and influence the outcome of the match. This use of the game’s social interaction functions is much less annoying that when it happens in your own matches. Still, competitive multiplayer is where it’s at in #IDARB. Local play and private matches work best, as matchmaking will only put you in a game with someone with the same number of players as you; so if you’re playing alone you’ll only be able to have a 1 vs. 1 match. When 4 vs. 4 matches occur #IDARB is at its most baffling and confusing, especially once hashbombs are thrown into the mix. Luckily you can tweak and change the rules, and social functionality before matches begin if you want to.
#IDARB looks to be a constantly evolving beast, and Other Ocean Interactive openly admit to #IDARB being a joint project with the players. Your team names and emblems can be customised and you can create your own pixelated character (or object, or thing) and naturally this is shared with the whole community.
#IDARB pushes the boundaries of video gaming and social interaction in a new and encouraging way. The basic idea of developing the game with the community in mind, as an integrated project between the studio and the audience, is at the heart of #IDARB and it’s done better here than it is in many bigger alphas or betas that aim to achieve much the same thing; a game developed by the studio and the gamers. That’s probably because #IDARB started out as just an idea (a red box) and evolved from there. The fact that the social interaction in #IDARB is used to influence your game is another interesting mechanic, even if it can sometimes be more frustrating than fun.
Ultimately though #IDARB is a bright, chaotic, and interesting eSports game that shouldn’t be missed. It’s fun and addictive, if sometimes overly confusing and chaotic. Still, the intrigue of its social aspects far out way any of the niggles and annoyances. It’s currently free in February on Microsoft’s Xbox One Games with Gold scheme too, and it really would be a shame if you didn’t try it out whilst you can for nothing. If you do miss it though, it’s still definitely worth considering at #IDARB at its normal £11.99 price tag.
Either way, I’ll see you in the arena! But go easy on me, OK?
Images from https://store.xbox.com/en-GB/Xbox-One/Games/IDARB/13e6deb3-7ad2-498a-b5ec-6f35d2d7c6e8