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#IDARB (It Draws A Red Box) Review

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#IDARB, much like the name suggests, is intended to initially have you make a weird face and a question mark appears above your head.  Developed by Other Ocean, makers of one of my favorite retro throwbacks Dark Void Zero, the title began as a single drawing of a red box and took input from friends and Twitter to evolve into a game.  That game, while simple in nature, is a very meta representation of what could be the next big party game.  Since its release earlier this month on Xbox One (and free for anyone who currently has XBL Gold) #IDARB has definitely become the zeitgeist of the moment.  With retro-style graphics, social media integration that changes the game, and a whole glut of coverage, what’s not to love?  Well, that all depends on the type of gamer you are.

idarb_liveI don’t much care for sports games these days.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a sports game review on this site (hit us up if you do, there’ll be a prize in it for the first link to a sports game sent to the site).  This is because I feel sports games had a very small window of mass appeal, mostly stemming from the 16-bit era, and thus it’s a very take it or leave it genre.  #IDARB understands this and has created a game where 1-8 players, in any combination of teams (ie: 1v7, 4v4, etc) attempt to score goals against each other in a basic arena within a short time frame.  That plus the option to block, steal, and pass multipliers that significantly increase the value of a goal, which will exponentially raise the challenge of one player versus seven, and you have your basic game.  From that starting point #IDARB adds a whole bunch of online and offline interactive features to make the game much more interesting.  The amount of people watching, playing, and interacting with your game is both #IDARB‘s biggest strength and biggest weakness.

idarb_charSimple touches can spruce a game up and with the addition of a character creator to make your own sprite-based players is great.  This gets much better an easier when you visit the game’s official site where you can view and use AR codes with the Kinect to integrate any community created characters into your own game (this can also be shared via messages, texts, and basically anything to give your designs to specific friends and whatnot).  This may not seem significant but when you take on an entire team of Heisenbergs the effect is clear.  You can then take your specialized character through a brief campaign to learn some basic and advanced maneuvers, even practice against bots if you wish, and then it’s time to take it to multiple players locally or online.  When two people play the game’s short time span can make for an intense one-on-one scenario, which is predictably stronger if you have an audience in the room or online (Twitch streaming is encouraged) to help cheer everyone on.  It gets more intense and frantic when up to 8 players get involved, but as this is predominantly a party game in my eyes the current restriction is every player needing a controller and the cost of XB1 controllers does hinder #IDARB‘s strength on the couch.

If you do have enough online friends, and the perfect storm of having everyone’s schedule synced up and everyone wants to play, it makes for some insane and addicting team play.  Then there’s the final piece, which adds the most interesting layer into the mix: the Internet’s ability to mess with your game.  More than 40 commands exist that you can put into any #IDARB Twitch stream chat or Tweet to @idarbwire with #<game code> #<change code> and affects the game.  This is currently the best way to integrate more than two people into a game and the commands do everything from blocking the goals to killing the lights to a beer party.  Unfortunately you won’t know any of this if you just boot it up and jump into a game nor will you get any hint of this on the game’s site – at least as far as I could tell – but perhaps the meta nature of its concept means that you were supposed to have seen it in action on a recent games press site where the game has a glut of coverage.


Yep, you can get Rickrolled

When you wrap it all up I see where the pitch on a concept like this is huge, especially for those that have large online and offline gaming circles like college dorms, high school players, and even those frequently having drinking parties.  For the rest of us who tend to play solo, don’t have a ton of online or offline gaming friends, and can’t command thousands on a Twitch stream, #IDARB is nothing more than a passing fad.  I congratulate the team at Other Ocean for trying something new and from the looks of it succeeding in stride, but frankly this looks like a game playing too close to the chest in the games development and games press inner circles to be of much value to the gaming whole.  Sure, when Giant Bomb or Kinda Funny want to get their hundreds of thousands of followers to jump onto a Twitch event and put eight gamers who can find a few hours in the middle of a Tuesday while the rest of us are at work together the results are, without a doubt, magical.  I just don’t see how this experience is going to be common, especially when you consider this game has been out, for free, for over a week now and no one on my friends list is playing it outside of a handful of games press.  It all stacks up to a bunch of potential but it’s just another case of the collective few media outlets pushing hard for a game that has familiar favorites like Mike Mika and shout outs to Dave Leng – which are both inside baseball to the games press and development world – for a game everyone likes to watch but few play.  I hope that’s not the case, but from my point of view that’s right about what it’s shaping up to be.  Still, you probably can tell by this point if this is the game for you and your friends or not.  As for me, I see the draw and can’t seem to find the value proposition here, which I’m judging by time commitment and not money.  I don’t even see the value in giving this game a score because its draw or lack thereof is so varied it’s probably not appropriate, but what the hell, all games deserve a score, right?

Final Score: 3 out of 5 (review policy)

#IDARB is currently available exclusively on Xbox One at the price of $9.99 and is free for Gold members during the month of February.  This game was not provided as a review copy and was played by the reviewer using this promotion.  It was played for approximately three hours with varying numbers of players in both single player, multiplayer, and browsing the game’s features (yes, I know about the recipe sharing).  Please note that this review could be updated in the future as this is one of those unique games on consoles that seems to have plans to update and change based on various factors.  Review updates will be added at the bottom of the review with a date of the update, but the original review will remain unchanged moving forward.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 10, 2015 at 12:46 pm

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