#IDARB Preview


#IDARB started as a single tweet by lead director Mike Mika of Other Ocean Interactive when he posted alongside an image of a red box, “Where to go with this? I’ve started a new project, it draws a red box. Thinking platformer.” And thus #IDARB was spawned, with the acronym of course standing for ‘it draws a red box’. After many inceptions, the game became an 8-player arena ball title focused solely on cultivating an e-Sports setting. Up to 8 players duel in an arena where the ball starts in the middle of the playing field, and opponents race to it with the sole goal of putting it in the back of the opposition net in a frantic pixel art environment. And while all of this is going on, tweets are shown scrolling by the bottom of the screen with fans chatting it up on social media. #IDARB is fun and frantic, but its quest for an uber e-Sports vibe suffers as the game is almost too fast and random to ever be a hit in the competitive community.

Although the game does have a single player mode, with minimal dialogue, the main attraction is either the couch co-op or the online battles where you face other players. In the build as of now, there was only the generic sports ball arena, but in the single player there were additional arenas including a fantastic ambient forest setting. Players run to the center to pick up the ball and can pass around to team mates with the B button, as a white dotted line shows up indicating the exact trajectory of the ball. The team on defense can use the left and right triggers as a shockwave to knock the ball out of the opposition’s hand. This results in a frenzy of shockwaves sending the ball to the opposite side of the field which results in a randomness that may not suit the competitive setting the developer is trying to harbor, as many goals are put in either by accident, or by not allowing the team on defense enough opportunities to stop opposing goals. Even more so, the field of play is too small for the speed characters move at, especially with the fizz ability that allows players to waggle the right analog stick and build up pressure, and with the hit of the right trigger dash and shockwave at the same time.

On the single player side, the game pits you against increasingly difficult odds and gifts teammates to your squad as you progress. Initially you play against one opponent which then leads to 2v1’s, 3v2’s and the like. I once faced a team of mom’s, hilariously commenting, “We are the All-Mom.” The only problem with this was the lack of any difficulty and rather weak AI as I easily dispatched of them. The other game modes include an incredibly addicting betting variant which allows you to put money on 2 computer teams playing each other, and a simple tournament mode which will do wonders for inviting friends over and playing endless hours for bragging rights. There is also an entire suite of customization options starting first and foremost with your in game character. Those with a Kinect can scan QR codes into the game for pre-made characters and can also choose between a set of avatars from Microsoft exclusive and third party studios like a pixel Master Chief. You can also create one from scratch with an 8×16 pixel chart to fill colors in with. Moreover, teams can create custom logos and even theme songs as the developer seems rather serious to give players a platform to compete and differentiate themselves from the crowd. Developer Other Ocean Interactive also adds a layer of social media interaction with tweets and Twitch streams notifying the player of events going on in the community and initial reactions to the game. In one of the coolest features in modern gaming history titled hashbombs, players have the ability to tweet at a particular game session, with a unique 4 digit code, and tweet things like ‘#lightupmylife’ to quite literally turn the lights off in that game session. Other commands include #freeze, #reverse, and even #bluebet10 to bet on teams. On the audio side, the shout caster is incredibly enthusiastic while calling plays, and the musical score fits the ‘NFL game day’ vibe.

As far as the raw gameplay is concerned, it feels like an ultra-fast version of LittleBigPlanet with floaty but appropriate controls. Games are up to 3 wins with the best showcase being teams of 4 on each side lobbing the ball to one another, shock waving opponents and getting goals. This is the bread and butter of #IDARB and the controls feel great. Penalties are awarded against players who stand still with the ball for 3 seconds, and they are put in a penalty box at the bottom of the screen. The commentator screams “GOOOAAL!” and the crowd laughs when players score an own goal. #IDARB oozes style and this is only aided with its super cute pixel art as players bounce around the screen. Other features include the ability to daze other players by jumping down on their heads. There are goal multipliers like bouncing the ball into the net or throwing up an alley-oop to a teammate. There’s even a super mode where players are on fire after scoring goals without reply that allows the team to jump higher, run faster, and explode the net in an epic animation by walking in. And at the end of the game, the winning team can wiggle the right stick to raise the podium their avatars are standing on, while the losing team can repeatedly tap the A button as their tears fill up the screen.

#IDARB is set to launch free on Xbox One in February as the developers continue to tweak the title and take in fan feedback from the recent early access sessions. Although it does have issues with its apparent e-Sports agenda, the game is undeniably fun and will no doubt sprout a die-hard community.