If you’re particularly old, you may remember a rather popular little platformer game called Nebulus. Or Tower Toppler. Or Castelian. They’re all names for the same game, and the premise was simple: get to the top of the rotating tower, and try not to die too much in the process. The rotating tower effect in particular was spectacular for the time, and perhaps most famously was copied wholesale as a concept by Rare for the final level of Battletoads.
Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls borrows heavily from this general concept but turns it into one of the most interesting game hybrids ever- Nebulus-style platforming mixed with Bionic Commando-style grappling hooking mixed with Kart-style attacking and racing. There’s also heavy dash of the underrated fast arcade-y SNES gem Uniracers/Unirally. It shouldn’t have worked, but yet it does so incredibly well.
Although it doesn’t quite always work, considering my character fell off the track and
is now accidentally stuck in this ring forever. Made for an exciting screenshot, though.
Presentation wise, the game is pretty rough- about the same level of polish as the also Acclaim-published Extreme G. The colors are bright and garish yet still often a bit muddy, the character voices run the gamut from non-noteworthy to irritating, and the music does little other than the job of being music. This game is definitely a showcase of the philosophy of gameplay over graphics, however, even if it wasn’t necessarily intended to be. The controls and smooth and responsive, a must for any game that requires precision grappling hook-ing. The hook isn’t just used for climbing, either- it also provides a means of grabbing your opponents and tossing them around a bit in attempt to slow them down.
There’s also a variety of weapons to facilitate the slowing down of your opponents, although I admittedly couldn’t get much of a feel for how useful they actually are versus simply racing well. They could easily play a bigger role in multiplayer matches with humans, but I can’t say for sure yet. What I can say, though, is that I plan to have an article (perhaps an eventual series) up soon lamenting the multiplayer component of certain N64 titles, specifically in how well they do or don’t hold up today. I have a feeling this game is going to fall firmly in the former category.
Don’t roll your eyes at me.
The game features more than a hundred total levels, and while each is relatively short, it makes criticism of certain other racing games with a small number of extremely short tracks feel all the more justified. Iggy’s is packed with far more content than almost any other game I’ve played so far, and it’s mostly quality throughout. It’s also more than a bit challenging, resulting in me unlocking much less than I would have liked to. Thankfully, though, there’s cheat codes.
A Costco-sized grip of cheat codes, in fact. This is pretty standard issue at this point for an Iguana-created game, but is nonetheless wholly appreciated. The cheats range from your standard character unlocks to your now-cliché “Pen and Ink” line-graphics mode to one particular mode that I can find no mention of on the internet outside of cheat code listings: enabling Turok 2′s graphical effects engine. So here, presented for the first time on the internet (that I’m aware of) is a demonstration:
The cheat menu lists it as “Dark City,” which might be a more accurate description than “Turok 2 Effects Engine.” Like the movie the cheat is likely referencing, it is a display of starkly contrasted colored lighting against dark sets. But that’s all it does, really- it puts real-time colored lighting onto the tracks, and turns the tracks themselves shades of black. Essentially, it looks like a dance floor lit by a 10,000 watt disco party light. It should be noted that real-time colored lighting was kind of a big deal back then, so there’s a good reason that Iguana decided to show off the fancy bit of tech they came up with for Turok 2. It’s a great way to appreciate just how difficult it is appreciate the newfangled graphical advancements that games have these days, since they’re rarely so blatant. It’s also a great way to appreciate how most newfangled graphical tricks don’t end up giving you headaches, because the colored lighting as demonstrated in this game does a fantastic job of doing exactly that. The game is hard enough as it is, so also being difficult to look at is a serious no thanks.
I can’t recommend this game to the easily dizzied, because it just keeps getting twistier than this.
Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls should not be written off as a kids game, mascot game, or any other genres that were often so reviled back when this game came out. Beneath the cute pastiche lies one of the most challenging, satisfying, and well-designed games I’ve yet played. Nebulus was certainly no cakewalk either, so this game carries the torch well. Thankfully, the smoothness and intuitiveness of the game’s control mechanics and play style is never a primary obstacle to your success. You may end up not wanting to play through this whole game, but likely only because there’s such an enormous amount of content. As such, even if you only play a third of the game, you’ll still be getting far more than your money’s worth out of this one. A strong recommend to anyone who likes racing and/or platformers, and one of my strongest overall recommends to date.
Literally balls | Rancid Balls | Pretty Balls | Slightly Balls | Average | Semi-remarkable Balls | Better than Balls | Balls Deluxe | Tight as not-Balls | Reckin’-Balls!
Reckin’: Tons of content, great gameplay, incredibly challenging.
Drekin’: Lacks polish, can occasionally get a little too chaotic.
It may have one of the worst game titles ever, even among ones involving balls such as Ballz: Director’s Cut for the 3DO. But it’s a thin mask that hides this game’s genuine charm, fun, and challenge. I can’t recommend this one as a must buy no matter what your taste in games is, but I can absolutely recommend it as a must try for any game fan. A remake or homage of some kind would be a perfect small Steam or PSN/XBLA title. But even if that day ever comes, it’ll have a hard time beating Iggy and his Stooges in their original form.