#IDARB is scheduled for release on Xbox One in February 2015 and will be free for all Xbox Live Gold subscribers. It was developed by Other Ocean Interactive (and the people of the internet) and published by Other Ocean Interactive. A copy of the game was provided by Other Ocean for review purposes.
Based on what I have read over the past week or two, the gaming press have been generally disappointed by a lack of both quality and innovation across almost all platforms in 2014. Many of the most anticipated games of last year were sequels or remakes. Worse still, almost all of the triple-A holiday releases were clearly rushed, unfinished and in some cases almost entirely unplayable. It seems fitting to me then that one of the first key indie releases of 2015, #IDARB, is the complete opposite of these bloated, cynical big-studio productions in every way. Let me tell you all about it.
Here’s what I liked:
Mirror, mirror — With the amount of sequels and remakes in gaming today, it’s very common for comparison to be used as a way to compare a particular game with its peers. For example, we often hear “Is that new RPG like Dragon Age, or is it more of a Diablo clone?” Well, one of the best things about #IDARB is how it so easily compares to almost everything and yet nothing at all. My first thoughts were that it played like classic NBA Jam, with a character/team edit system like the original Worms, but with a control system all of its own. A colleague here at XBLA Fans thought I was nuts — he was seeing Battleblock Theatre, Sensible Soccer and more. The fact is that it’s tough to really describe EIDARB as anything more than the sum of its parts: it is a competitive sports game involving simple but precise controls, with matches fought out on a vertical two-dimensional plane — but it is actually so, so much more than that.
Rockin’ all over the world — I’ve already touched upon how incomparable the gameplay in #IDARB is, but perhaps the most amusing aspect of the game deserves its own introduction. #IDARB is the first game to really encourage spectators to watch and even interact with online games as they happen. That’s right, #IDARB is perfect for the Twitch and Twitter generation, because not only can games between other competitors be viewed live, but those watching can actually affect the game-state through a feature labelled “hashbombing.” This basically involves entering simplified game code into either Twitch or Twitter whilst watching a game, with the intention of causing a (usually) bad thing to happen, or on very rare occasions, a beneficial effect may be triggered. It seems that the list of available hashbombs is ever-growing and has never been formally released by Other Ocean, and there is already a growing community of players just experimenting to see what can be achieved.
Evolution — Make no mistake, perhaps in 2015 but certainly in 2016, the big developers will be copying ideas from #IDARB. FIFA games have previously made a strong case for integration with live sports data to present in game. #IDARB has done the opposite, becoming the sport itself and offering a rapidly growing fanbase the opportunity to watch and interact in a way that has never been possible before. This immediate uptake in interest, in addition to Other Ocean’s initial commitment to crowd-sourced ideas, looks likely to ensure that #IDARB will only grow and improve in the immediate future, and that is a prospect that leaves me hugely excited.
Simple mechanics — So far I’ve almost completely overlooked the most important thing about #IDARB – the fact that it’s incredibly fun to play. Matches do indeed take place from a side-facing, two-dimensional perspective, and the object of the game is for teams of one or more players to maintain possession of a ball and throw it (or walk it) into the opposing team goal area. It plays as simply as it sounds, with the only inputs other than movement being for pass, throw and tackle, essentially. #IDARB expects players to possess the kind of speed and precision which the 8-bit graphics suggest will be necessary, and the online community in particular features some exceptional players. That said, it doesn’t feel hugely punishing, so inquisitive players shouldn’t feel too daunted about diving in. Perhaps the best place to start is by watching a few matches on Twitch and learning to hashbomb.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Almost nothing — My only criticism of #IDARB might have been that it had no single player mode to speak of, but then after several days of playing, I found the (very extensive and fairly amusing) single-player campaign hidden in a weird place. Yes, that’s my only criticism of this excellent game — the single player mode is in a weird place.
#IDARB not only has the potential to be one of the most important indie games ever made, but no matter how it may or may not influence future titles, it’s just a huge amount of fun. It’s so rare that a game can be so compelling in every way. Whether enjoyed single player, online, with multiple players in the same room or even by the new generation of voyeuristic gamers, #IDARB offers something unique and amusing. I would have no hesitation to recommend #IDARB at a premium price tag, but as a free game for Xbox Live Gold Members, you literally cannot go wrong.
Score: Buy it
Editor’s Note: #IDARB will be free for Xbox Live Gold subscribers in February.