#IDARB Review

Lee Bradley

At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last year, XBA was invited to an [email protected] showcase. At the time, Microsoft was getting grief for not providing the same level of indie support as PlayStation. It was a thing. People were upset. So we trundled down to The Mission district to see what Xbox was doing to fight back.

The showcase was crammed with indies, both familiar and unfamiliar. Alongside hyped known upcoming games like Capy’s Super Time Force were quirky, inventive little Kinect experiments like Fru, made in 48 hours by a small team of Dutch devs. There was loads of good stuff there. But one game generated more buzz than anything else in the room. It was called #IDARB.

#IDARB began life as a tweet. On January 3rd this year, Other Ocean Interactive Design Director Mike Mika posted an image of a small red box and some grey and white platforms, along with the caption, “Where to go with this? I've started a new project, it draws a red box. Thinking platformer.” From there on in, development on ‘It Draws a Red Box’ was directly influenced by Mika’s Twitter followers. It would be wrong to say that #IDARB was crowd-designed, but it’s not far off.

#IDARB isn’t a platformer. It’s a frantic sports game that sees two teams of up to four battling it out to score goals in a kind of madcap cross between basketball, soccer and the Rayman Legends mini game, Kung Foot. Players can jump, tackle, travel with the ball and pass. They can slam down onto each other’s heads, reversing an opponent’s controls. And of course, they can shoot; the more bounces and passes, and the further the ball travels before it enters the goal, the more points scored. And that’s it, give or take. That’s the core of the game. But there’s loads of other stuff layered on top too.

You can create your own teams in keeping with #IDARB’s 8-bit aesthetic; you can compose your own chiptune theme to play out as a victory anthem; you can make your own team logo; you can share your creations with QR codes; and you can open the path to insanity by activating hashbombs, which are either the best or worst part of the game, depending on your point of view. And your mood.

Hash bombs are the best because they add to the anarchic, frenetic energy of the game. #IDARB is fast, with possession changing hands every second and goals that flow freely. Activate hashbombs and either your Twitter followers, your Twitch viewers or the game will add to the breathless insanity; making the screen shrink and spin, flooding the arena, or making a pixelly Rick Astley slide along the screen singing a muffled version of ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. There’s loads of them and it’s brilliant. But it’s also a bit shit.

It’s shit because it ruins any chance of a match playing out properly. If you’re playing to win (and trust me #IDARB will bring out your competitive nature), then Rick Astley’s stupid face obscuring your view and preventing you from scoring will get right on your tits. It might be fun for a few minutes, and it's definitely fun for the people watching, but it gets tired quickly. The game itself, however, does not.

#IDARB has no features designed to keep you playing. There’s no XP system or levelling system or in-game currency (outside of the betting). There’s no systems designed to hook you in and keep you engaged, beyond the game itself. But with a few friends around and a bunch of controllers, there’s not many better party games out there. You can pick it up, scream like an idiot for 10 minutes, then wander off down the pub bragging about your victories. Perhaps even more impressively, it’s a game that anyone can pick up and understand, but few will excel at. That’s a difficult trick to pull off.

Where it falls down a little is online. Currently, you can only play over Xbox Live against a team with the same amount of players. #IDARB won’t fill out your team with other players or bots. So if it’s just you, then you’re going to be matched with one opponent. If there’s two of you locally, it’ll find two opponents for you. And when you are in a match? The netcode is a bit ropey and lag is an issue. As it stands, #IDARB is at its best in local co-op.

But what a laugh it is! We’ve been playing against each other in the office and during streams for weeks now and it has replaced PES 2015 as our go-to competitive game. If we’ve got a spare ten minutes then we’ll look at each other and say, “#IDARB?” It’s that kind of game. And for that alone it should be celebrated. Other Ocean will be supporting the game for some time to come and plenty of updates are planned, but even if #IDARB is left as it is, it’s an easy recommendation. Xbox Live Gold members can download it for free here. Do it! It’ll put a smile on your face.


Fast, silly, disposable fun that excels at couch competition but falls short of our expectations for online play, #IDARB is nevertheless a brilliant laugh. Get a few mates ‘round and fire it up for guaranteed giggles.

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The theme tune is stupid and catchy (much like the game itself), while the commentary is chuckle worthy. You won’t be able to hear anything above the smack talk and screaming though.


The 8-bit thing has been done to death, but the little player characters are cute enough, especially the ones that are based on existing game characters, like Master Chief and a whole bunch of indie stars.


Ridiculous local multiplayer fun that you can enjoy dipping in and out of with friends versus slightly wonky online multiplayer missing some much-needed features. We’d rather focus on the former.


Other Ocean has managed to layer a simple little game with loads of fun extras, most of which don’t add to the gameplay, but instead focus on customisation and community engagement. A lot of it is silly, like the intermission mini-games, but that’s the point.


Oddly, nearly all of #IDARB’s achievements are focused on the fun fluff that surrounds the game (the Twitch and Twitter integration, mostly), rather than the actual game. It’s a crap list really, but at least this one is brilliant.

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