Iggy's Reckin Balls (N64)
For the past year and a half, Acclaim has been on a roll. The company has consistently released some of the N64's best games, and emerged as one the system's most ambitious and prolific publishers. Alas, Iggy's Reckin' Balls will probably not further that lofty status. This strange game may find an audience, but it probably will not be a large (or particularly happy) one.
Perhaps the highest compliment one can pay Iggy's Reckin' Balls is that the game is original. It's so original, in fact, that it defies accurate description. Is it a 'vertical racing' game? Is it a puzzle game? Is it a platformer? Is it all of the above? Yes!
In these days of redundant Doom and Mario clones, developer Iguana strove to do something very different. Iggy's Reckin' Balls involves maneuvering one of eight balls (including Iggy, the character that is based on developer Iguana's own mascot) through a series of twisting, towering tracks. If you are having trouble visualizing the way this game plays, consider Sonic the Hedgehog. Remember how Sonic would sometimes roll into a ball and accelerate madly through a level? Iggy's Reckin' Balls (during its better moments) has a vaguely similar feel.
Each of the eight balls has its own character identity, with unique personality and attributes. However, the characters here are not terribly compelling. There's no Sonic hiding amongst this bunch. Apparently, there are only so many ways to make a ball look appealing. It's safe to say that there won't be too many Iggy lunchboxes appearing anytime soon.
The balls and tracks are presented in 3D, but the game nevertheless feels rather 2D. It plays like a fast-paced 2D platformer, with racing and puzzle elements to boot. The goal is to win the race to the top of the platforms; you must use a chain-link grapple extending from each character's head to advance to the next highest platform. The 3D element comes into play during curves and loops, but it seems to confuse, rather than accentuate, gameplay. Sometimes it's hard to figure out exactly where you're going. Ironically, the game might have been better served with a straight 2D approach. (Kudos to games like Tetris and Bust-a-Move 2 for demonstrating that simplicity is usually preferable in a puzzle game.)
Along the race to the top, one must avoid conflict with various enemies like the Paranoid Pushie Creatures (not to be confused with Marion Barry) and Slimy Stickie Slugs (there's a stained dress joke in here somewhere). Naturally, there are power-ups ranging from Freeze Bombs to Seeking Projectiles, and devices including Giant Fans, Conveyor Belts, and Magic Warps. Sound strange? It is!
The overall affect is that of a mildly addictive puzzle game. But the problem with this game is arguably that it attempts to do too much. It's too complex for its own good. Not a pure puzzler like Bust-a-Move 2 or Wetrix, neither is Iggy's Reckin' Balls a pure racer or platformer. It's a combination of these genres, with a dose of fairly uninspired personality included for good measure. As a solo game, Iggy gets boring rather quickly. Even though there are lots of different levels to challenge, the game lacks a compelling reason to keep gamers plunging forward. After a while, it all seems the same.
The music is a standard Acclaim throbbing techno beat. It's good in a bland, non-annoying way, and it blends into the background nicely. But the audio voices of the various balls are rather bizarre, and rate high on the annoyance scale.
Fortunately, Acclaim has included a cool split screen multiplayer mode. Like most games, Iggy's Reckin' Balls becomes much more interesting when played against humanity. But even this isn't enough to sustain Iggy interest for the long term. The N64 just has too many other excellent multiplayer games for Iggy to stand out from the pack.
For some reason, the end result of Iggy is less than the sum of its parts. I can't imagine anyone being particularly thrilled with Iggy's Reckin' Balls. Those with patience and a love of puzzle games may be entertained. Other, less puzzle-inclined gamers, may react violently to Iggy. Iggy's Reckin' Balls gets high marks for originality, but simply doesn't deliver in several key departments.