Videogame review: #IDARB - best of the old and new
The thrills of retro gaming aren't to be taken lightly. These days, it might take lifelike graphics and fully realised worlds to entice modern gamers, but for those who've spent decades juggling an embarrassing number of controllers, few things are as classically competitive as an eight-bit clash.
#IDARB is a prime example, a release aimed largely at long-in-the-tooth players, but just as accessible for younger audiences. It's technically a sports game - think a bizarre hybrid of football, basketball, volleyball and hockey - but really, #IDARB is unlike any pastime you've ever seen.
In the game, available exclusively for the Xbox One, up to eight players battle it out in a ring, with just one simple rule: get the ball into the goal by any means possible. Points aren't based solely on scoring and victory depends on a complex formula: where you take shots, how the ball bounces, where competitors are during a play and other factors.
It all seems pretty random on paper, but a half-hour after being tossed into its throwback chaos, everything starts to make sense. Of course, many of the thrills come down to how many people are playing: with one player on each side, #IDARB is initially fun, but soon sinks into repetitive boredom.
With two, gameplay becomes fun and frantic, and only slightly chaotic. And with four, it descends into madness, with little sense of order, everyone desperately attempting to touch the ball and, soon enough, shouting matches ensue.
The game's most exciting aspect is #IDARB's clever use of social media. As its name suggests, the developers have placed Twitter front-and-centre and spectators are given ample opportunity to get involved through the use of "hashtag bombs" - think Super Smash Bros items, but tweeted real-time during a game. For example, #block temporarily closes up all goals, #lights makes everything go dark, #puketrain puts it all into an insane zoom-heavy spin and - our personal favourite - #clown turns everyone into a red-nosed circus performer.
Quick-fire arcade gameplay, competitive sports simulation, Super Smash Bros dynamics and truly clever use of social media - #IDARB has a lot going for it. The throwbacks to yesteryear's halcyon days are more than welcome, but it's the balance that turns us on: a best-of-both-worlds combo where retro-styling and modern techniques all add up to a near-perfect party game.