Review: Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls (N64)

In this review, we climb up and up and up in the N64 game Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls. We find out if this combat racing game is worth playing.

This game was released in 1998.

There’s not much of an in-game storyline other than you are racing against other wrecking balls up various towers located in various places.

The general goal is quite easy to understand. Try and win the championship mode by collecting the most points. Winning a race will, of course, next the most points. Finishing last will net the fewest points. Failure to finish the race will leave you with no added points.

When players start figuring out the gameplay, they will realize this is not your average racing game by any means. If racing as sentient wrecking balls wasn’t a giveaway of this fact, then actually racing in a race will prove this is a rather unique game. The general racing style is more or less a cross between racing and platforming.

You start races with the typical countdown, but you find yourself travelling on thin paths that only permit you to go either left or right. Jumping can allow you to move up to higher platforms. If you jump and hold down ‘a’, you’ll be able to flutter in the air and increase the lengths of your jumps.

Of course, your most valuable racing tool is your grapple. You can press ‘b’ to activate it. By default, it will thrust in the direction you are moving. Holding up and firing your grapple will thrust the grapple up. You can even fire the grapple at angles. This is critical for winning races because you’ll find yourself grappling up from platforms below to get up to the next platform. Some races depend on being able to grapple up platforms quickly. The downside is that you can’t grapple up on an armoured floor. These floors will simply deflect your grapple shot. This reduces you down to hunting for the non-armoured floor to grapple up to the next level.

The grapple is as much a tool as it is a weapon. If you fire your grapple at an opponent, you can stun them or knock them completely off the floor. While this is great, it means that your 3 other opponents can do the same to you. If you are quick on the ‘b’ button, you can pull off a reversal and stun your attacking opponents. As an added bonus, you can also throw random enemies around with your grapple along the way as well.

Ducking itself really has few uses, but you can grapple down a platform. In a few instances, there are particularly high platforms that require swinging left and right from the platform below. If you grapple down, swing to build up momentum, then jump up, you’ll fly higher and give yourself a chance to grapple onto a particularly high platform. Look for drop zone signs.

In addition to this, there are special attacks you can do to give yourself an advantage. The best one is to jump onto your opponent and jump even higher. Not only will you potentially stun your opponent, but you’ll also get a chance to jump through a floor onto the next level. Even better is the fact that, as long as you don’t need a grapple, you can even move through armoured floors in this manner.

While that is a general idea of movement, the tracks themselves offer their own challenges besides armoured floors. One challenge is the inclusion of moving platforms. Some platforms simply move up and down. Others move left and right. Others still move around in circles. Finally, some platforms will tilt. This can create numerous unique situations where timing and precise movements can be critical.

Other obstacles include other enemies on the course. Some, namely the yellow enemies, will bounce you around. Others can stomp on you. A few will even stab you with spikes to stun you. Attacking them is possible, but this only serves to move them out of the way. Use your attacks when needed, but most can be more quickly bi-passed.

Another kind of obstacle is special floors. This can include slime and ice floors. Slime will slow you down while ice will reduce your traction.

In addition to this, there are some features on the track that can help you out. One feature is the spring. Jump onto them to bounce to the next area. Another feature is the bubble blower. Stand on this and get encapsulated in a bubble to float up to the next area. Fans are also there to blow you up to the next platform. Finally, there are sideways plungers that put you in roll mode (the fastest you can go) in a particular direction.

One really nice feature is the roll zones and speed zones. Speed zones have arrows that tell you which direction it will push you in. This can help or hinder you, depending on the situation. Meanwhile, roll zones are almost always helpful. Enter them and you’ll travel at the fastest speed possible from beginning to end. The unique feature about this is that tapping ‘a’ repeatedly will replenish any boosts you spent up to that point.

There are boosts you can use. You can carry up to four at a time. Each boost will blast you in a particular direction. While movement is possible, it is ideal to spend them on long runways. There are two ways to replenish these boosts. The first is to tap ‘a’ in roll zones. The other is to complete laps. If you complete a lap, your boosts will be fully regenerated.

The final feature of note in the races themselves are star power-ups. If you touch one, you’ll get a randomly produced item. These items will generally help you one way or another. One item is the star which grants temporary invulnerability.

Other items include the oil drop (shrinks opponents and even allows you to just run over them), blue item (3 electric spheres that travel around in an area and zap anyone who touches them, red sphere (reverses the opponents controls), green up arrow (helicopter that moves you up the course automatically), snow flake (turns opponents into ice balls for brief periods of time), yellow flashing item (yellow electricity that automatically seeks and stuns opponents), and bombs (3 bombs that you drop behind that can blast opponents who touch them). The only downside is that you have to use the “Z” button to use the items. So, if you want to use a boost, make sure you have no items in your possession or you’ll use them instead.

In total, there are 10 races per world. In total, there are 10 worlds to travel on. So, that, in and of itself, makes this a pretty big game. Easy street is the easiest world and is more or less considered a practice level with full competition. These courses are easy and the opponents are quite simple to beat. Just be warned that the further advanced you go in the various worlds, the harder it is to compete against your opponents as they become gradually smarter and more efficient at making their way up the various towers.

At the end of each world is a 1 lap boss race. If you beat all 10 worlds (counting easy street), you’ll unlock Iggy’s Challenge. This world involves racing in each worlds boss stage in succession. So, the only way you can beat this is having mastered the other courses first.

As you go along, you’ll also have the opportunity to unlock characters. To unlock them, you need to score 100 points on each world.

There are other modes of racing besides the regular race mode. In addition to the main race, there is a “mix up” mode. This allows players to choose from any unlocked race and world and build up their own championship. This can easily add a lot of additional replay value if the original 100 race championship isn’t enough.

Time trial allows players to pick any race that has been unlocked. The goal, of course, is to get the fastest time.

Finally, battle allows players to go against any combination of opponents ranging from 2 to 3. Each player gets a chain of 3 dots. As players take damage, their energy reduces. The last remaining player with health wins. Also, the player that scores the most wins in a round (depends on settings) will win altogether.

In the main menu, there is also an additional race mode. This is called “Trainin'”. In this mode, players will be introduced to the various moves found in the game. These moves include basic movement and the various attacks available to players.

One thing I really do like is the overall unique nature of this game. I would never in a million years look at a wrecking ball and think “racing character”. That is exactly what has happened in this game. What’s more is that the game is executed in a way that just works which is probably the most impressive thing about this.

The first world or two is set up in such a way that it allows players to start mastering the controls and movement style. This allows new players to get on board. This is a critical thing in a game like this because it is so unique, it has to be approachable. Players may or may not have a whole lot of gaming knowledge that will help them through this game when they are completely new. So, it is great that this game does get this right.

What is even better is that there is a nice gradual difficulty curve. As players get to the later pre-unlocked worlds, they will realize that they can’t necessarily expect easy wins. This starts happening when players go to the ocean levels where computer opponents become quicker and courses start becoming more challenging. This definitely ensures that players will never really be bored with the game because of difficulty.

Another positive is the length. Players can easily spend hours on this and only get a small chunk of the game completed. This game is by no means a splash and dash game. What’s even better is the variety of the levels. With a large length and big variety, this game is easily an immersive one.

With so many positives, it’s hard to find any negatives here. Probably the only negative I see is that this game may be so different, it may be offputting to some players. Some players really like a sense of familiarity. Racing games typically involve motorized vehicles of some sort. Battle racing games typically have a rather “tough” theme (i.e. the Road Rash series or Red Asphalt). This game really takes combat racing into an entirely different direction with the more comic style art and borderline abstract concepts. I don’t mind it so much, but some players apparently think it’s a bit too weird to be enjoyable.

One problem I think is a bit of a sore spot in this game is the fact that later racing levels wind up being less about general difficulty and more about being irritating. In some instances, one tiny mistake can set you back so far that you have no real hope on catching up to first place any time soon – if at all. In some cases, you swear you jump high enough to grapple onto the next level only to miss and see yourself plunging down several floors. Sometimes, opponents initiate combat to the point where they set you back far enough to never win the race.

Still, this game has a lot of positive. It’s unique nature combined with the fact that it works well is a big plus in my books. The difficulty curve is made in such a way that it is approachable to new players while still being challenging to expert players. While it may be a bit too weird for some players and get irritating on later levels, the length and replayability will ensure many players can get a lot of entertainment value out of this one.

Graphically, this game is great. It features several effects that keeps things visually interesting. On top of it all, each character has its own unique set of animations to keep the variety up. In addition to that, the huge variety in worlds makes this game quite immersive. To top it off, when you beat a particularly frustrating level, there is something oddly satisfying about being able to blow the whole level up after and send the slowest computer opponent flying in the middle of it all. In the end, this is a great effort.

The audio is also quite solid. The music offers a big variety in different moods. Some of the music is more laid back while others are higher energy. The various taunts and other sounds of different characters help give this game so much more personality. Even with just working with the regular characters give a lot of audio potential – let along throwing in a whole pile of unlocked characters on top of it all. The other effects such as weapon effects and general in-game sounds offer quite an auditory treat to the player. An overall great effort in my books.

Overall, this is a great game. If you want something completely different that involves combat racing, this is a great selection. This game offers a difficulty that is both approachable and challenging. The length and variety allows this game to be immersive. With an additional set of modes on top of the 100 main mode races, this game is a game that keeps on giving. Some players may find the concept a bit too strange and some of the later levels may prove annoyingly difficult, but there is still plenty of game to be had anyway. The graphics expand on the immersive nature of the game with numerous unique worlds and fine details. The audio offers a lot of great music and sound effects to keep you going. So, an overall very solid game worth playing.

Furthest point in game: Unlocked Iggy’s Challenge, but didn’t win in it.

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 84%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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