If you missed any part of the last two years in gaming, you might not have realized it, but local competitive couch co-op games have made a comeback. From things like Sportsfriends to Towerfall and Nidhogg, even Super Smash Brothers — those with friends at arm’s length have had plenty of fun and innovative games to play. While the aforementioned titles are all unique in their own way, the upcoming release of #IDARB from Other Ocean is an odd collaboration between people who make games, and folks on the internet who were crowd-sourced for ideas as to what #IDARB should become. Other Ocean showed the internet a picture of a red box, and asked what they should do with it. #IDARB is it. So what is that exactly? There are probably a lot of ways to describe #IDARB. It’s a cross between Foosball, Air Hockey and Smash Bros. It’s a comedy game. It’s a competitive online multiplayer game, and an elbow your buddy in the shoulder, laugh out loud local party starter. It’s fun and silly, yet competitive and chaotic.
Coming to grips with the objective of #IDARB isn’t difficult. Players are placed in a 2-D arena with many platforms and obstacles. Each side of said arena has a goal, one for the blue team and one for the red team. The ball drops into play much like it does in Foosball, and that’s when the fun starts. It’s clear what you’re supposed to do, put the ball in the opponents goal however you can. Do this stylishly and you’ll earn bonus points. Players can take shots at the goal from anywhere, pinballing a shot across the arena for massive points. Or, they can set up more direct attacks and make easier lay-in shots for fewer points. All of that is easier said than done in #IDARB, as you’ve got the human element of someone trying to stop you on the other end, as many as four other players, actually. #IDARB is incredibly fun on the most basic of levels, and a game that seemingly anyone can pick up and play.
#IDARB is an incredibly simple and intuitive game from the moment you pick it up. The objective is clear, the controls are relatively easy to master, and the game rules are pretty close to “anything goes.” Whenever you are in possession of the ball, the other players are trying to jar it loose. Whether that be from jumping on you, using the steal button, or just intercepting passes or shots, you’re almost always going to have someone looking to impede your progress. On the flip side, if you have the ball, you’re looking to make accurate passes, set-up clear path shots, and ultimately get the ball in the goal. There’s nothing slow about #IDARB as it is full of constant action, and every possession feels like something amazing could happen. This is all bolstered by a boisterous in-game announcer, who narrates each match. Announcing turnovers, interceptions, and ‘Gooooooooools’ with an enthusiasm only rivaled by Andres Cantor, #IDARB’s announcer keeps each match feeling lively commentating on the events of the game, while throwing in humorous and random pop culture references from time to time.
The same humor found in-match is laced throughout the rest of #IDARB. There’s a lot of tongue in cheek here, with an obvious humorous intent in just about every facet of the game. Wherever you look, loading screens, characters, single player modes — no stone can be unturned without Other Ocean at least trying to making you grin. And it works for the most part, #IDARB doesn’t feel like it takes itself too seriously at any step of the game. But make no mistake about it, as fun and as light-hearted as the game’s exterior can be, the actual matches can be downright cutthroat. We’ve seen this in things like Super Smash Bros., it’s competitive, yet easy to learn, #IDARB feels very similar to this. #IDARB is noticeably dated when it comes to visuals, however. Pixel art graphics in a game engine that’s said to be from the 90’s, Other Ocean isn’t exactly breaking new ground here with either the physics or graphics of this game. What it lacks in fidelity it does make up in style, especially for lovers of the pixel art revival. Characters come from a number of differently themed teams, some recognizable names from websites, organizations, and games, as well as more general themes like mimes, moms, or food groups.
Hashbombing in #IDARB
What is remarkably contemporary about #IDARB is its social integration. Being a game that was built with the help of the internet, each match of #IDARB can be played with its help…or hindrance occasionally. Hashbombing is one of the game’s craziest features, letting anyone watching the game on Twitch or Twitter play a role in the outcome by issuing commands to the game through chat. Watchers of the game can grief its players with a long list of commands that yield many different results. You can see some of the crazy effects that hashbombing can have on the game in the video above. Hashbombing certainly makes each match of #IDARB incredibly interesting and chocked-full of possible outcomes, as if it wasn’t already crazy and chaotic without them.
This chaos can be a little much at times. It’s not uncommon to get lost in all the commotion of the game, the mixture of the small sprites and onscreen effects can definitely have you searching frantically for the player you are controlling in crucial situations. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this kind of complaint from a game of this type, and Other Ocean certainly hasn’t solved it with #IDARB. It’s not a deal breaker, but the size of the characters coupled with intense action can really be too much to handle. The only other drawback in #IDARB is the lack of being able to matchmake into larger games if you’re just playing solo. If you’ve got two players at your house, you can play online 2v2, and so on. These small shortcomings really don’t hinder #IDARB all that much. As I’ve said quite a few times in this review, it’s a blast to play. And there’s a lot of other options stuffed in here that go above and beyond. There’s a Salty Bet style mode where players can wage cash on teams and watch the results unfold. There’s a single player mode that has some entertaining dialogue, introducing some of the default teams. And there’s a robust set of creation tools that allow players to make new characters with sprite editing tools, teams to use, and intro music for them as well. There are plenty of customization options for those who want to dig deeper into #IDARB.
As good as #IDARB is, it’s going to need a community of players and fans to get the most out of it. Being part of February’s Xbox One Games with Gold line-up could do just that. By giving away the game for free, this could very well be a community building game for the Xbox One, and an important indie-exclusive for the console. Getting people to enjoy #IDARB as a freebie with Games with Gold shouldn’t be a hard proposition, as it’s easily one the most creative and fun smaller titles to arrive on the console since launch.
- This article was updated on January 14th, 2015