Thursday, July 24, 2014

Game Review: Iggy's Reckin' Balls

Iggy: I'm a video game hero with no arms! How awesome is that?
Iggy's Reckin' Balls was another one of my early gaming experiences as a kid and while it wasn't one of my more fonder moments as a gamer, today I can easily think back to a game that is peculiar as this one and say "Well, at least that was a fresh attempt at something different! Pretty enjoyable, I think!" Iggy's Reckin' Balls happens to be one of those games that you can easily forget at one point, but then easily remember again if you just take a deep look at some of the game mechanics that have been used in games since this one. 

This game is properly defined as an odd hybrid between a Platforming and Racing Game as it involves typical platforming that you would see in any of the more recognizable game franchises, but also the objectives in the main mode clearly point out that you have to guide your wrecking ball of choice to the finish line before the other competitors. As I will dissect in this review, you will come to know why there was something unique about traveling from platform to platform in a race using wrecking balls with unique personalities.

Controls: 17 out of 20 Points

Understanding the controls and mechanics of Iggy's Reckin' Balls certainly took me some time to get used to because it wasn't a hot way for games to be made around the time of the Nintendo 64. This game was released in the Summer of 1998 and there wasn't much to the control configurations of the Nintendo 64 controllers.  The characters I could play as were able to use grappling hooks to propel themselves forward in intricately designed obstacle courses. This was essential for me if I wanted to advance to the next course in a world. There are 10 worlds total in the game's main mode, which I wouldn't really call a Story Mode, and each world carries a specific theme to them. The obstacle courses that I encountered dealt with challenges that revolved around their specific themes, making the experience both fun and meaningful. 

Unfortunately, there were some surfaces within courses that I just couldn't grab onto with my grappling hook and it took me some time to understand why. Most surfaces were accessible for me to grapple on, but some surfaces prevented me from grappling for whatever reason. The range of the grappling hooks at times made me feel like I could have been given more rope, so to speak. I assumed at points that I would be able to reach out long enough to grab onto something but then watched as my wrecking ball plummeted into the abyss of a bottomless pit.

Perhaps it was only my own personal experience playing this game, but I got the feeling that the grappling hook response lacked just a little bit whenever I pressed the button to activate it. I mean, the grappling hook would respond, but not at the most desirable time. I was able to collect power-ups that allowed my characters to either speed through the courses, shield themselves from attacks or equip themselves with ammo to attack other racers. When I collected a power-up in a race, it did mean something and it carried value in the long run. Some power-ups were available to stun your opponents almost immediately if you timed it right, giving you a decent advantage. 

Graphics: 17 out of 20 Points

Taking into account the year in which this game began its existence, 1998, I would have to say that Iguana Entertainment did a fine job considering the limitations they had to work with. Am I to say that the graphics of Iggy's Reckin' Balls are superbly amazing? No, but these graphics do present a specific identity to what the world of this game is and these graphics are proper representations of what Iguana Entertainment had envisioned for this game. The graphics stayed true to what Iggy's Reckin' Balls was all about. Colorful, vibrant, pleasing for the eyes, laid back cartoony, comic book-like... I could use a variety of examples to describe the good quality of these graphics. 

You could tell from the animations of the game, from the characters you could play as to all the enemy NPCs that were either amusing or annoying, that Iguana Entertainment were poised in presenting something out of the ordinary for the Video Game Industry at the time. This was basically a little statement made by Iguana that could go something like "Here's something you weren't expecting, but don't you think these unique quirks that make up this game are cool?" 

I personally liked the design of Iggy, the main character. Iggy was, to the shock of no one, an iguana, made after the mascot of Iguana Entertainment, and it made sense to me. What would you want to highlight your game the most as the first character that gamers see? You would want to give gaming communities something to talk about and a character who can be recognized for standing out. "An iguana that's a wrecking ball? What kind of strategic nonsense is this? I should check this game out anyway!" This game would have that kind of appeal.

As far as glitches and bugs go, I can't say much about this particular department. Nintendo 64 games were more notorious for allowing certain bugs and glitches to sneak past game testers at the time, so it was definitely to be seen by me playing this game. Sometimes when eliminations occurred in races or in battles did something glitchy or buggy took place. It took a while for the game to get its head on right and allow you to move on as just a giant bomb. Instances such as that could be looked at. 

Story: 5 out of 20 Points

I don't consider this to be a big deal because I am also considering the context of what a game like Iggy's Reckin' Balls is. It's a Platforming-Racing Game, and knowing that, I believe it would be fair to give this game a mulligan in a sense. The fact is that this game is not story driven at all. There is no real sense of a story developing throughout the main mode of this game, and honestly, that's fine by me. I wouldn't have expected there to be an in-depth story coming from a game where all the characters don't even have arms to use, but rather grappling hooks. Just imagine Nintendo trying to come up with ideas for a spin-off game featuring the Goombas... Yeah, that would be difficult...

Plus, what could you possibly do to make an engaging story out of a wrecking ball iguana and his friends who look just as funky? This game is built more around the sense of friendly competition between 2 to 4 players, and this is really the strength of Iggy's Reckin' Balls. This is a party game where a group of friends can sit down and play and have fun together. 

Okay, so you want an abbreviated story in a nutshell? Well, here goes nothing.

"Once upon a time, a wrecking ball iguana started racing some friends through Easy Street. Next, he raced his friends through Downtown, Candy Lane, The Deep and Soft Sun Bay. Then the wrecking ball iguana and his friends embarked on a dangerous detour through Funkville, Tecktricity, Sunset Canyon and Patchwork. Finally, the heroic wrecking balls plowed through a deep and dark forest. They went back home and had some laughs. THE END"

Music: 12 out of 20 Points

Here's another thing that I don't remember too fondly about this game. I don't remember much about the music in this game. When I heard the game's music, it didn't strike me as being memorable. To be sure, the music was catchy, fun and lighthearted which fits the atmosphere of the game, but it was nothing that a gamer could go back and tell his or her friends "Remember that awesome music we heard from Iggy's Reckin' Balls on the N64?" I don't think this is a strong point of this game, and quite possibly Iguana Entertainment could have looked around a little bit more for inspiration in the musical department. 

This is just in the nitpicking sense, but I sometimes got the off-putting feeling whenever I focused on listening to the music of Iggy's Reckin' Balls. Perhaps there was something about the music that just didn't fit certain parts of the game that made it off-putting, but I can't thoroughly pinpoint the reason. The music in this game isn't bad at all but it may raise your eye brows a little bit.

Replayability Factor: 18 out of 20 Points

Beyond a shadow of a doubt this game excels in being a friendly competition, and in being such, it would warrant constant replays from a group of friends just hanging out and wanting to experience nostalgic gaming. It really depends on how you feel about a game like this, whether or not a unique Platforming-Racing Game like this is something you are interested in. If you don't mind adjusting the controls of the grappling hooks, the bouncing physics of the wrecking balls when they bump into each other (and yes, this has happened to me...),  and the intricate, and sometimes baffling, designs of the obstacle courses, then you would probably get a big kick playing Iggy's Reckin' Balls.

Gamers who just love to race other gamers, no matter what the setting of the game is, would most likely have fun, which is why I suspect that the Replayability Factor for a lost little gem of a game like this could be pretty high. There are a variety of courses to choose from and very rarely do you get the sense that the courses are simply built the same way, so that's another plus.

Overall Score: 76 out of 100 Points (Bonus Points: 7)

I award Iggy's Reckin' Balls 7 Bonus Points mainly because of the strong originality of the game. The theories and planning behind this game were very much solid and I could easily see that. Some of the elements that Iggy's Reckin' Balls displayed would probably be parts of the strategies that I would implement into my own hypothetical games. Obstacle courses are meant to be fun and I believe Iguana Entertainment put out a solid effort in making the obstacle courses in this game fun. It also never hurts to have a Cheat Code Menu as well, since this game provides cheat codes in spades to be discovered. I put in some cheat codes and they turned out to be pretty funny, worth the time to look around for.

A word of warning before I close this review out, though. Be prepared to die in this game. MANY TIMES. Such as what I mentioned earlier about my assumption that I could reach a surface with my grappling hook, but only to fall, you could experience that yourself just as easily if you haven't mapped out the obstacle courses enough. Iggy's Reckin' Balls is a challenge, but a fun challenge to pay attention to, even if for just a little while.

Sadly, Iguana Entertainment, and by extension Acclaim Studios Austin, are no longer with us in the Video Game Industry, but the employees of this defunct company still march on making games today. Don't worry, guys. You made one impression with this game.

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