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Iggy's Reckin' Balls

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Iggy's Reckin' Balls is a completely off-the-wall creation from the new, more focused, more mature Acclaim. Designed at Acclaim's original Iguana studios in Austin, Texas, Iggy's Reckin' Balls takes a surprisingly cute approach at bringing two genres together. At the core is a "vertical" racing game (meaning you always go up) with lots of platforming action and even some puzzles thrown into a 2-D gameplay mix. Even though the game is obviously aimed at kids, Iggy's Reckin' Balls is hardly a cakewalk and requires some keen hand-eye coordination to become skilled at. In fact, Iggy's Reckin' Balls is more of a throw back to games of old. You won't find fancy intelligence, special techniques, or watered-down game design. But what you will find is essentially a platform game that forces you to memorize and practice levels over and over in order to become good. Now factor in a great multi-player mode, and you've got a winner. When you turn on the game for the first time, you'll have the opportunity to choose between eight Reckin' Balls. These cool character designs have different abilities. One might be a great grappler while another might be the fastest on straight platforms. And, yes, there are many hidden characters, too. There are also five worlds (10 levels in each world) to choose from the first time you play with at least another five more hidden worlds. That means there are over 100 levels in the game! There are five game modes in Iggy's Reckin' Balls. The best and most important mode is "Race." In this mode, four Reckin' Balls battle their way to the top. If only one player is playing, then the computer will control the other three Reckin' Balls. In the two-player mode, there are two computer opponents. And in the three-player mode, the computer will even take control of the fourth Reckin' Ball. You are given points depending on where you finish. You get 10 points and a gold medal for first place. You get 7 points and a silver medal for second place. You get 4 points and a bronze medal for third place. And you get 2 points for a fourth place finish. But there's a small problem for the fourth place person: Once third place has made it to the finish line, fourth place then only has 10 seconds to reach the finish. If you don't reach it in time, then you get 0 points and must use one of your three continues. Tied into the Race mode is the "Game Mix-Up" mode. This fantastic idea lets you make your own 10-level Championship from any previously completed Championships in the Race mode. So now you and your friends can pick any 10 levels you want to determine who's the fastest, who's the best grappler, and who's the best overall. The "Versus" mode is essentially like the Race mode, except there aren't any computer opponents. The "Time Trial Tournament" lets you race any level and save the best times to the Controller Pak. A Time Trial mode is kind of lame for this type of game, though. Finally, there's the "Battle Match" mode. Granted, it's nowhere near the level of Mario Kart 64's Battle Mode. OK, so it's not even as fun as the main Race multi-player mode. But at least it's better than the multi-player mode in, like, Chameleon Twist. So how does it work? Well, each Reckin' Ball has three balloons. Each time you're attacked (either with a grapple attack or a power-up), then you lose one balloon. Also, once you lose all your balloons, you can still have fun since you'll be turned into a bomb. The only options in Iggy's Reckin' Balls are to change sound volumes, difficulty levels, and control schemes. Fortunately, the default control scheme is more than sufficient. You use the Control Stick to move your little Reckin' Ball left or right. Too bad there's no Control Pad support, because special analog support is non-existent. The A button is for jumping, the B button is for grappling, the Z button is to use a power-up, and the R button lets you jump and grapple with one button. You also have some offensive and defensive moves. For example, you can jump on someone to smash them for a second. Or you can grapple them. From there, you can slam them or toss them. In defense, you can duck, jump down levels, or even hang from a platform. It's fairly difficult to describe in words what the racing action in Iggy's Reckin' Balls is like. But I'll give it a shot. Racing takes place on platforms. Thankfully, you cannot fall off the side of these platforms. You can, however, fall off whenever a piece of the track stops (you need to jump and/or grapple to the next part), but a special dragonfly puts you back almost exactly where you fell off rather quickly. So the object is to reach the top of the level. Fortunately, the game has arrows that show where you're supposed to go -- be it left, right, or up. Each level is a certain length and has a certain number of laps. For the most part, levels will only have two or three laps, but there could be more or less. Where there's a big difference is in the length of a level. For example, the first level on Easy Street takes like five seconds to complete a lap. But a future level might take a few minutes for a lap. Along the way on each level, there are different tower gadgets, tower dangers, platform elements, enemy characters (enemy characters are different from computer-controlled Reckin' Balls), and even different paths to contend with. For example, you'll come across lots of armored platforms. You can't grapple through them. That means you must find a regular portion that will let you grapple up. So you'll be going left, right, and in circles to find the next higher platform you can grapple. Some of the gadgets you'll encounter will warp you to a different place, let you jump over huge chasms, enable you to get caught in a bubble to float to a platform that's too high to reach, and more. Some of the dangers you'll find are enemies who want to stomp you, push you off a platform, and slow you down. There are also objects that can do the same thing, not to mention moving platforms, goo platforms, and icy platforms trying to prevent you from reaching your goal. You're not completely defenseless, though. First and foremost, you always have a special turbo boost that can be activated with the Z button. You get four of them, and it refills every lap. But that doesn't mean Iggy's Reckin' Balls is a mad dash to the finish line, because the great level design and the ability only to turbo left and right (not up) means turbo only comes into play at certain points in time. However, on some levels there are "Goodies," or power-ups, scattered on the platforms. They look like a star. Picking one up temporarily replaces your turbo, but it gives you something cool in return. There are various projectiles, there are a few bombs, there's invincibility, there's something that reverses everyone else's controls briefly, there's an item that temporarily freezes opponents, and there's a nifty item that will lift you up and take you to 2nd player's position. For being on a 32-megabit cartridge, Iggy's Reckin' Balls looks and sounds surprisingly good. Each of the 3-D worlds has its own theme, which means the game really doesn't have the look of repetition. The backgrounds are particularly well done, giving a nice sense of depth with parallax scrolling, which is most noticeable in the one-player mode. The Reckin' Balls are animated very well, too. Viewing distance becomes more and more limited in the multi-player modes, though, with a slight hint of fog, and there is a frame rate drop once you divide the screen into four. Wisely, the developers included the option to split a two-player screen either horizontally or vertically. All you need to do is pause to access it. You can also zoom the camera in and out with the C buttons to get a better idea of what's above you. The techno-based soundtrack in Iggy's Reckin' Balls is fine. The stereo music won't make you get up and dance, but it doesn't intrude very much. It can get slightly repetitive, but it's better than a lot of the music we heard in the first-generation of N64 games. There are also lots of cute sound effects, and all of the Reckin' Balls have their own voice and comments. Iggy's Reckin' Balls scores extra points for being original and for combining platforming and racing, which are my two personal favorite genres. On the downside, the game can get repetitive and some of the later level designs border on insane. And the one-player mode will definitely wear thin. Also, three- and four-player racing is very much an objective thing, since the screens can seem even more scrunched than usual because you're always racing upwards. So Iggy's Reckin' Balls is at its best in the two-player mode. Since this is probably going to be a game you either love or hate, you would be wise to try before you buy. If you like the game and find someone else who also likes it, then you'll be in for one of the more enjoyable and longer lasting gaming experiences you've had in some time. The low retail price ($39.95) certainly doesn't hurt, either.

Graphics: 3.8 out of 5 Sound: 3.6 out of 5 Control: 3.9 out of 5 Gameplay: 4.1 out of 5 Lastability: 3.9 out of 5 Overall: 3.9 out of 5

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