Game developers seem to be under the impression that fans of the puzzle genre, and to benefit the analogy, we might as well throw in the driving genre, too, are the types who'd actually attempt to dig their way out of prison with the blunt end of a toothbrush. Why? Call it attention span; call it stubbornness. For better or worse, the games tend to be loaded with sick, addictive tasks that no matter how much you try to hate them, you can't even walk away from them. Acclaim's Iggy's Reckin' Balls for the N64 is no exception.
Iguana's bizarre puzzle/racing/platform game isn't particularly difficult. In fact, some of the challenges are downright easy. However, the game is fairly steep, with four modes of play, about ten levels in each (including hidden ones), with about ten towers of difficulty in each one of the levels.
There are eight main characters available immediately, with nine hidden ones you open up later. These game personalities are balls with faces. That's right, including a room-temperature-cool Iggy, a cooing strange female with a bow, a large grinning thing, a pumpkin, and others. They're fairly ineffectual as characters, but fortunately, they're not developed enough to be ingratiatingly annoying - actually, ignoring them becomes pretty easy once you start cracking levels.
It's with one of these characters that you enter into one of four modes. In arcade mode, you race up to three other CPU opponents or humans in one of five open levels or five hidden levels, once you unlock them. There are ten stages of difficulty, known as towers, within each level. Beat one, you move on to the next, and so on. When the race starts, you move to the top of the vertical, spiraling course by climbing to the plank above you or adjacent to you by grappling with your tongue. Some sections of the track you can't grab on to, so you'll need to race along horizontally until you find a clearing or a grabable surface. Now the cool thing is, you can actually grapple your opponents as well. Someone getting ahead of you? No sweat. Stick out your tongue and whip him around a few times. You can make some time while he recovers. You're also equipped with jumping ability, a turbo, and the benefits of any of the power-ups you gather along the way, such as little bombs you can leave for your enemies or a destructive energy ball that seeks them out while you progress through the course. But some of these power-ups do nasty things to you as well, like make you really small and slow or reverse your controls. And one big, huge frustrating thing to have happen is to run out of turbos before you're at the end of the course. While there's plenty of bounding from trampolines and grappling from plank to plank, the sections of track between the areas you can grab onto are awfully far apart if you can't zip to them quickly with your turbo. Since you only have a limited amount, you have to use them very wisely or else go crazy, especially in the longer towers.
Another mode is the mix-up or create-your-own-championship challenge. This is actually pretty fun, especially in multiplayer. You select the ten levels you want to play, as well as the tower within that level, hence tailoring the difficulty and progression of difficulty to your liking. For example, you could set the championship up to begin in The Deep, Tower 5, and then make it easier by choosing Easy Street, Tower 1 to go next, and then make it difficult again by choosing Candyland, Tower 10 for the next one and so on. And once those are selected, the challenge is the standard race to the top before the other guys within each level.
The time-trial mode challenges you to beat the best time for each level on your own or go up against human opponents. This is actually more difficult than the other modes, as well as frustrating. If you want to challenge your friends, the versus, or head-to-head mode and the other modes are much more interesting, with the exception of the battle mode. In this one, you select the level you want to battle in, and then race around as you would navigate the race or time-trial mode, using power-ups and grappling to destroy your opponents. Every character trails three colored balls behind him or her. When all three disappear from taking hits, you lose. It seemed as if the battles would be the most enjoyable of the Iggy's options, largely due to what we've come to expect from N64 multiplayer challenges. However, they're too chaotic and over far too quickly to be half the challenge they ought to be.
In the competitive modes besides battle and time trial, you collect a cumulative number of points for each lap (the number varies in each tower), for each tower, in each level. If you win first, second, or third, you'll get a "secret technique" or a tip. The problem is, the tips usually come in the form of something you figured out long ago enabling you to get to a winning spot in the first place. But if you're really good, you'll at least start opening hidden characters and levels, so there is something to strive for.
Graphically, Iggy's is pretty decent. With levels to the likes of Candyland, the potential for a graphical nightmare seemed rather high. But the levels are clear, well designed, and easy to find your way around - unless you're one of those people who gets lost stepping off elevators, which in this case, it wouldn't be the developer's fault. Also, the camera works with you. From a third-person perspective, you can almost always see exactly where you need to be, quite a while before you get there. A couple of the jumps were somewhat blind, but in the case where the direct path wasn't discernable, a bit of patience would usually remedy the confusion, as a movable plank would eventually appear. Also, the blind turns were a lot like deliberate blind turns on a roller coaster track. Usually when you couldn't see too far around the bend, you really didn't have to worry, as the course would straighten out or send you to a teleportation area before you had to react on your own.
The music is typical puzzle music, yet not as moody and ambient as in other N64 puzzle titles Wetrix and Tetrisphere. But it's downright symphonic as compared with the miserable little character voices - more car commercial-sounding actors attempting to utter words like "dude" with feeling.
So for all Iggy's trademark puzzle-game annoyances, it also has the perks, such as the element, perhaps never formally defined, that makes these monotonous, redundant, frustrating little games suck the very life out of gamers each time they arrive in stores. Fans of multiplayer puzzle games will probably have a lot of fun with this title, and for solitary puzzlers, it's also fun, but you may be best served with Tetrisphere or Wetrix.