It might seem arrogant of some to make the name of your game a ready-made hashtag. It means every time someone mentions your game on Twitter, it’ll creep up the trending topics list. It also allows them to put a little ticker across the bottom of the UI so while you’re playing every message anyone sends about the game pops up for you to read. After playing the game you definitely get the sense that Other Ocean don’t really care what you think about that feature. They liked it so there it is.
#IDARB is what Other Ocean call a ‘a constantly-evolving, crowd-sourced, minimalist game mechanic sketchbook’. In practice this means it is a fairly simple game where people on Twitter have voted for what the game mechanics should be and Other Ocean have picked things that can work and turned it into something playable. And completely insane.
The best way we can describe it is as a 2D platformer football game with an incredible breadth of customisation. Remember the days of Sensible Soccer and Worms where you could create your own team and pick their appearance and names? Now in #IDARB you can not only do that but draw your own sprites for the characters and compose pieces of music with a simple MIDI tool. You can even do these things on the website and then produce a QR code which can be scanned into the game to make it a little easier. Browsing the characters already made you can see exactly what you’d expect, hundreds of copyright-infringing pop-culture characters like Chewbacca and Mr T alongside internet memes, celebrities and everyday objects. The tools for creation are wonderfully polished and make it incredibly easier to create something that’s not terrible, unless you’re doing that on purpose in which case you can create whatever you want. The developers take a rather relaxed approach to content with a small jokey warning at the start about how people on the internet can do what they want and we imagine as soon as the game launches properly in February you are going to find yourself up against innumerable teams of genitalia.
The game itself is entertaining but also frustrating. Your team (up to 4) spawn on one side of a small 2D arena and a ball drops down in the middle. You have to get that ball and throw it into the opponent’s goal, while trying to stop them from doing the same to you. The arena is tiny so accidental goals are common and each round only lasts a minute or two, giving you short bursts of action. The basic controls are simple, you jump with a, move with the left stick and can tackle or throw the ball with X. Your aim is also controlled by the left stick (making the right stick useless) which feels odd and makes it surprisingly difficult to get a hot in from any distance. The tackle simply fires a circular energy wave around your character and if the ball is being carried close by it will be propelled in the opposite direction. There’s also a ‘mute’ and ‘fizz’ button. You can charge the ‘fizz’ by doing something with the seemingly useless right stick, but it’s hard to quantify exactly what that does. It seems to be a boost of speed or throwing power. We assume ‘mute’ mutes the other team but as we couldn’t find any players online (the game isn’t out yet) we couldn’t test it.
For single players there’s a campaign of sorts with increasingly more difficult matches and you can unlock team members as you go by beating them. There’s brief snippets of dialogue between matches and parts are funny although due to the anarchic nature of everything about the game it’s incredibly hit and miss. Similarly occasionally you will get a mini-game at half time like a competitive ‘Flappy Bird’ and it affects nothing but can be entertaining when you don’t expect it.
Overall #IDARB is an interesting project and well worthy of praise for fully supporting four player local co-op and some fairly extreme customisation. They’re also still taking on board suggestions so the game might change dramatically over the coming months. That being said there’s an issue that the game itself doesn’t feel that fun. There’s definitely some skill involved but due to the tiny arenas and seemingly arbitrarily changing heights you can jump and way the ball moves it’s a little too random to be taken seriously. Instead it’s the kind of silly game you might play for half an hour when you can’t concentrate on something deeper. An entertaining pass time and an interesting experiment.