|Box Art N/A|
|Platform Xbox One|
|Publisher Other Ocean Interactive|
|Developer Other Ocean Interactive|
|Release Date Jan 30, 2015|
There is a method to IDARB’s madness, though it might take you a while to discover it.
IDARB’s approach to the competitive, imaginary sports genre — a category in which I’d file local multiplayer gems like BaraBariBall, Hokra and … well, all of the games in last year’s Sportsfriends bundle — is a strange and not entirely accessible one. It layers learning curve upon learning curve, a latticework of skill progression so complex that it could, to the untrained eye, seem completely random. Also, it’s brain-searingly fast, and everything’s almost always exploding.
Watching the chaos of literally any IDARB match, you may very well dismiss it as a dumb, button-mashing party game. And it certainly can be that, should you choose to play the game that way. But below the bombastic surface of IDARB, there’s a near-endless well of strategy to tap into, constituting one of the most exciting games this fledgling genre’s ever seen.
The goal of IDARB is deceptively simple: Put the ball in your team’s goal by any means necessary, be it shooting, ricocheting, alley-ooping or swatting it out of a nearby opponent’s hands. Every one of those commands is much more difficult to successfully execute than you’d think. Shooting, for example, requires a surprising amount of timing and precision. If you can ricochet the ball off a platform before it goes in, you can dramatically boost your score, but those shots are extremely difficult to make, and might not be worth rebounding the ball into your opponents’ clutches.
Almost every scoring maneuver is an exciting, outrageous thing
The 2D playing field is the same for every match, composed of several rows of platforms, some pits towards the bottom and an arena in the middle, where the ball spawns after either team scores. The map itself is one of the most genius things about IDARB, as the winning team is usually the one that took the smartest routes through the arena. If you can outmaneuver your opponents, you’ll give yourself a much larger window to try and set up a high-scoring trick shot.
IDARB has an NBA Jam sensibility that really does it for me. Almost every scoring maneuver is an exciting, outrageous thing, whether you’ve sent an arcing shot halfway across the map, alley-ooped it to your teammate or used an opponent’s head as a trampoline straight to the dunk zone.
Successfully coordinating a scoring strategy with your teammate is genuinely rewarding — far more so than the countless goals you’ll accidentally make with a botched pass or well-timed block. Unfortunately, the more people you add to your IDARB match, the more the game focuses on the latter.
You can play IDARB with up to eight people distributed to your liking between two teams. One-on-one duels are actually pretty great — they’re all about smart map routing, tricking your opponent into hopping on one row of platforms while you drive the ball down another. For my money, two-on-two is the sweet spot. It can get chaotic, but still rewards teamwork and quick-thinking with victory. As silly as the game gets, two-on-two matches represent some masterfully balanced game design.
Any more players than that, though, and things start to get a bit inscrutable. Three-on-three matches are doable, but make even simple maneuvers exponentially more difficult to execute. Four-on-four matches are just batshit crazy, filling the screen with so many explosions, flashes and sprites that just finding your own character will occupy most of your mental faculties.
If eight-player matches aren’t hectic enough for you, IDARB also carries some spectator-empowering functionality that rips the silly-knob off the goddamn machine. Twitch comments or Tweets using your game’s unique hashtag can activate modifiers and effects using certain keywords. Almost all of them are immensely disruptive, from the one that closes down both teams’ goals for a few seconds, to one that activates huge lasers on the field that penalize any player unlucky enough to touch them.
Finding the right game size can be tricky
IDARB gives you the options you need to make the game that’s right for you, letting you adjust rules, mechanics and social functionality before launching a match. Finding the right game size can be tricky, though. Ideally, if you possess a massive stockpile of Xbox One controllers, you can play with up to eight folks locally. There’s also online play, letting you sync up with up to eight friends in a private match.
There’s matchmaking too, but this mode leaves much to be desired. You can only matchmake with one other console hosting the same number of players you’ve got playing on your console. That means you can’t pop into matchmaking by yourself and get placed in an eight-player game — you’ll just end up in a one-on-one match.
It’s a frustrating limitation, but the game’s online component works fairly well otherwise; only about one in five matches I played online suffered from latency issues. Of course, playing online also allows you to showcase your lovingly crafted IDARB team, which you can make with the game’s simple, playful creation tools.
All of that customization is aesthetic, not mechanic, but that doesn’t make whipping up an unstoppable IDARB force any less enjoyable. You can make players out of a simple pixel-drawing grid, draw up a logo that waves proudly behind your team on the IDARB field and a theme song that plays when you claim victory on the pitch.
It’s really funny, just like a lot of things in IDARB
I created most of the Polygon editorial staff, complete with their own team logo and theme song — a weird, chippy version of the Jurassic Park theme — and took them online to spar against the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the original Power Rangers and what I believe may have been the main cast of The West Wing.
It’s really funny, just like a lot of things in IDARB. There’s an announcer who chimes in after every goal, barking ancient memes, TV theme song lyrics, commercial tag lines and occasionally super obscure movie quotes (like "My car just hit a water buffalo," that classic bon mot from Fletch). There’s a single-player campaign that pits you against mustachioed cops, a cult of moms and breakfast food items, culminating in a credits sequence that entreats players to Tweet nice things about the game.
IDARB silly nature doesn't hold it back from serious gameplay wins
IDARB throws a lot of goof spaghetti at the wall, and a shocking amount of it sticks. But its absurdity can, when cranked up to 11, distract from the real joy of the game — its satisfying mechanics and miles-deep strategy. Even at its silliest, even when you’re playing as President Josiah Bartlett and dunking over the head of Robocop, don’t get it twisted: IDARB plays like an honest-to-goodness, capital-S Sport.
IDARB was reviewed using downloadable code for Xbox One provided by Other Ocean Interactive. You can find out additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.About Polygon's Reviews