NBA Jam, Pong, Duck Hunt, Asteroids, Smash Brothers, music-making software, pop culture non-sequiturs, and recipes for dip. #IDARB is all of these things.
According to their website, #IDARB (I Drew a Red Box) is “a chaotic 8-player eSport jumping jetpack future arena ball game that is as inspired by Bomberman and Smash Bros. as it is by cans of soda, paint-by-number books, and driving five miles faster than the speed limit.” It’s hard to nail down just one description of this game, and that’s what makes it so amazing.
The first way you will probably play this game is 1 on 1 with a friend who has played it before. And they will absolutely murder you. This game is so bizarre that there’s no way to be great at it your first time. But, much like sex, with a little practice and the addition of more people it gets exponentially more exciting. Add a few controllers and go online and your 1 on 1 can become up to an 8 player, 4 on 4 freak fest.
Yes, I said 4 on 4. The one big thing that the next-gen, high-powered gaming consoles that are Xbox One and PS4 are lacking is the great couch multiplayer experience that began with the N64. The antidote that hardcore gamers like to throw out for that complaint is “well just buy a WiiU,” which is a great solution provided you have a few hundred bucks lying around. With this game (which was available for free last month, by the way), you can have up to four people in your living room either playing 2 on 2 against each other or taking on four people online. Or at your friend’s house. Or in the other room. Could this be the return of system link parties?! Well… probably not, but it’s still fun to think about.
The object of the game is to get the ball into the other team’s goal. Ostensibly, this is stupidly simple. In practice, it’s like playing basketball wearing greased up boxing gloves and an eyepatch during an earthquake with a hoop made of jello. The controls will sometimes reverse on you if you get too hard by another player. The screen may fill with water. Your teammates might accidentally punch you or jump on your head, ruining your awesome lay-up. Someone in the penalty box might send a spike rocketing up your pixelated anus. Anything can happen!
The scoring system adds yet another layer to the chaos. Much like basketball, the difficulty of your shot determines the number of points you get for it. Walking the ball into the goal is 1, a close shot is 2, a little further is 3, and then there are all sorts of bonuses for alley oops, bounces, etc. I still haven’t been able to decipher exactly what gets you what. I played a 2 on 2 game where I would swear we made about the same amount of shots as the opposing team, but ended up getting crushed 35-11 because of 2x muiltplier banks and half-court shots. Combine the craziness of the gameplay with the complexity of the scoring system and it makes it so much more satisfying when you pull off a great alley oop or drop in right at the last second to pick off and reverse someone’s masterfully executed play.
While the gameplay in the main game is great, what really makes this title special is its style. From the very start, the game fades in some excellent 8-bit arcade style music and then presents you with an FBI logo with text below it saying “Winners don’t use drugs.” From start-up, I felt like I was eight years old again sitting in front of my NES.
The cast of characters you have to chose from is truly expansive; from breakfast foods to Killer Instinct characters to arcade cabinets to your mom (seriously). The game’s title–I Drew a Red Box–comes from the fact that the playable characters started out as red boxes (think the paddles from Pong) and then the creators asked Twitter users for ideas. It seems that even other gamer developers got in on the act. For example, you can play as 8-bit Master Chief in different-colored armors. It would seem the developers exchanged use of their characters for advertising within the game, as you will see a couple banners on each side (for example, a 343 Industries banner). Not only are those ads unobtrusive though, they actually provide a little extra fun. The banners are consistent with the 8-bit style of the rest of the game and it really makes the arena feel like a true sporting event.
Oh, and if you’re not happy with any of the tons of characters already in the game, theres an editor where you can create your own 8-bit avatar. I’m a little surprised I haven’t played against any boobs or veiny, bulbous cocks. Surprised, but not particularly angry.
If the nostalgia of the music and graphics wasn’t enough for you, at halftime of each game the players face off in a mini-game. So far, I’ve played games in the style of Duck Hunt, Tank Battle, and Asteroids. The outcomes of these games have no effect on the rest of the game. They’re only for bragging rights, but if you need to skip it for a bathroom break, that’s ok too.
Once you play a few games, I would recommend going back to the main menu to discover the wealth of other things this game has to offer. If you’ve gotten any achievements, go check out your recipes. When I say “recipes” I’m not talking about some bullshit potions or in-game stuff, I mean that there are honest-to-god food recipes. For example, catching an alley oop unlocks the recipe for a bean and corn dip that you can make in your real life kitchen. I have yet to try it, but it certainly looks delicious.
In addition to your recipes, you can also unlock the ability to edit the pre-made characters. So if you want to add Valkerie wings to your Master Chief, go for it.
There’s a built-in tournament bracket system for you too! And if you’ve had a few too many beers to keep up with the action but still want to place some friendly wagers, the game has a mode where it will pit two AI opponents against one another.
Another awesome (if rarely used) feature you don’t even have to unlock is a music editing program. You can write your own short pieces and play them back. Granted, this is basically a time-waster, but it’s a fun time-waster if that’s your thing!
My favorite little Easter egg (if you can really call it that) in the game is the credits screen. The song is an appeal to people to be nice and thoughtful when talking about the game and think of how hard the people worked to make it rather than… well… being regular internet people. My favorite are the lines: “They tried their best, but sometimes / it’s just not enough. / Please don’t go online / and start attacking. / Sometimes you’ll find things are so much / better with hugs!”One of my favorite quotes from the game’s website is, “Michaelangelo once said that in every block of marble, he saw a statue imprisoned inside, waiting to be freed.
If you gave Michaelangelo a red box, he’d see #IDARB”
I think that’s an excellent summary of what #IDARB is. It takes an astoundingly simple concept–shoot the ball into the other team’s goal–and uses that to flesh out nostalgia, weirdness, and laughs around a core of solid and exciting gameplay. I would recommend this game for anyone who enjoys fast paced, shit-talking, wildly laughing gaming. This game may not mark the beginning of a return to couch multiplayer on Xbox, but it certainly is nice to have a game to play with real life friends again.
Billy is a freelance writer living in Indianapolis with his dog, BoJack. He enjoys TED talks, video games, sunny days, football, and the salty tears of his enemies.