Review: MadBalls in Babo: Invasion (Microsoft Xbox 360)

MadBalls in Babo: InvasionBabo Box Art
Developer: Playbrains
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Genre: 3rd Person Shooter
Release Date: 7/15/2009

My youth was filled with collecting odd things from Garbage Pail Kids to M.U.S.C.L.E. men. Another one of those collections included MadBalls. These squishy little foam balls looked cool but I could never find a purpose for them. Of course I never thought about giving those MadBalls guns and letting them blow up other balls. Ah the carnage!! This year XBOX Live Arcade is putting a lot of effort into games that will change your expectations on what a downloadable arcade game is. This is a good example of a lot of bang for your buck.

Let’s Review

Story/Modes

The story in this game is a simple one. You have two opposing factions BDI and Scorched which are at war. Throughout the game there is some silly dialog but you won’t get too drawn into the story. This is, after all, a shooter. In other words, just give me a gun and something to shoot at. Where this game lacks in story it totally makes up for with different game play modes. The 10 level campaign itself took me about four to five hours to complete. This game plays in true arcade fashion which means that you have 3 lives at the start of the level. If you lose one life, you restart at a checkpoint, and if you lose all three, you start at the beginning of the level. The game also includes an online co-op campaign mode where you can take on the campaign with a few friends and the difficulty is increased as more players join in. This is extremely fun on the level called Snowblind as there are a lot of baddies on this level. However there is no local co-op play which is kind of a bummer. I really would have enjoyed this more if I could play split screen with my roommate.

AvatarThere are 21 multiplayer maps, ten characters with different abilities, ten weapons with two different firing modes. There are also five combat modes in multiplayer versus that include: Skirmish, Team Skirmish, Capture the Flag, Invasion, and Avatar Attack. The first three are pretty familiar but some players will have strategic advantages in these modes as they may have unlocked more weapons, characters, and abilities. The invasion mode is by far the most amazing for a game at this price point because it includes limited map editing. Every match starts out with players taking turns placing tiles. Each tile has different sizes and different obstacles and these leads to the map being different every time you play. There is definitely some strategy involved in tile placement. The last mode I need to mention of course is Avatar Attack. This mode is absolutely ridiculous yet fun at the same time. You start the match with your XBL Avatar stepping into a machine, getting decapitated, and the head stuffed with confetti. Basically it plays the same way as skirmish except it is a bunch of avatar heads rolling around blowing each other up with an explosion of confetti. This is quite amusing because I tend to try and attack any avatars that look like the Joker. I have a thing against Joker avatars.

There are few downsides to the multiplayer mode. I found games that were at the 16 player max had some lag issues. This can be avoided as you can see your ping speed and that of the host when selecting a game. Another issue was that when the host leaves the game ends. If they could change the host that would keep the large groups going longer. Of course like I mentioned before the lack of split screen is a downer.

Story/Modes Rating: Classic

Graphics

BaboScreen4The graphics in this game are up to par with most of the current arcade releases. While nothing stands out and wows me, there are plenty of things to mention. I do enjoy shooting at balls and making them go splat. Leaving behind red and green blood splatters is pretty cool. When the big battles come into play the game does not slow down and the mayhem is pretty wicked looking. Some of these battles reminded me of the chaos on screen from games like Geometry Wars. When playing in four player co-op there is so much going on in some battles it is amazing just to watch. I did encounter some clipping and some of the shadow effects were on the shaky side, but they didn’t distract from the gameplay at all.

Graphics Rating: Good

Sound

I really enjoyed the audio tracks in the game. Every level had a different music theme and they seemed to fit the mood of the level perfectly. Most of the music is kind of a rock/techno hybrid. Personally I find this type of music is always the right type when playing a game of destruction like this one. There is some limited voice work in the game. Most of the voice work gets pretty over used. When using the character Oculus (The giant eye), he would always say, “I spy with my little eye.” That got really old after about the second time he said that. Each character had some kind of catch phrase like that. Overall sound in this game only added to its enjoyment.

Sound Rating: Good

Control/Gameplay

BaboScreen1This game plays as 3rd party shooter with ¾ top down view. You can change view to top down with the quick press of down on the D-Pad. This is great for locating secrets within the levels as there are many. The level design is pretty solid with an equal amount of combat and some puzzles thrown in to roll through the level. Yes I did say roll, as all you character pretty much does is roll like a marble shooting your way to boss characters. Only on a couple levels was I struggling with which way to go. You can hold one weapon at a time but the weapon has two firing modes. Those firing modes come from the 4 standard modes: impact, energy, heat, & cold. There are a total of ten weapons, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. You also have grenades and molotovs in your arsenal. There are ten characters to play with and each has its own special ability and throughout the level you can switch characters to overcome puzzles. You start with one character and eventually unlock more as you earn more damage points in the game. You will also unlock weapons and other abilities for you characters this way. From the menu you can see how close you are to unlocking something as well as how to unlock it. It is very difficult to win at multiplayer versus without some of the better weapons and abilities unlocked. Each level had a very different look and feel to it. It kept every level exciting.

Control/Gameplay Rating: Great

Replayability

This game has potential for a lot of replayability especially with the invasion multiplayer mode. This game is packed full with some multiplayer features and unlockables. Also when you have beaten the campaign you have the option to go back through it with the opposing faction. This does not change the gameplay that much though. However, if you want to unlock all of the characters you will need to do this. In order to unlock everything to get that full 200 gamerscore you will need to invest a lot of time into this game. Most of the unlockables will unlock from multiplayer as well as the campaign. There is a ranking system and when you get up to some ranks, your unlockables will relock forcing you to do it all over again. I thought it is a really great game but none of my friends had even heard about it, yet alone downloaded it. I love multiplayer, don’t get me wrong, but I find it far more enjoyable when I play it with my real life friends. Yes I have those… all two of them. Kidding aside, without a strong multiplayer presence this game could soon be one of those games where you log into multiplayer a year from now and find it hard to find a game to play. I really hope this doesn’t happen as I do enjoy this game.

Replayability Rating: Classic

Balance

Avatar2Well I said it before earlier in the review and I will say it again: this game has a lot of bang for your buck being that it is only 800 MSP ($10). I find myself during this wonderful little recession scouring used game bins for great titles at a good price. This game fits that bill as a new title. In fact, I would dare to say that this game has more to offer than some new games at a $60 price point. The game is challenging at the hard difficulty setting and progressively gets harder from level to level. The four player co-op is by far the most challenging on the hard difficulty setting and it is sometimes chaotic to follow the action, but chaotic in a good way of course.

Balance: Classic

Originality

MadBalls is a perfect example of developers targeting a certain age demographic and playing off some childhood nostalgia. This isn’t the first time a game of this style has been attempted as there was a pc version called Babo Violent 2 that was released in 2006. I am unfamiliar with this release so it would be impossible for me to make a comparison. The concept of this game has some familiar multiplayer modes, that being said it is the most humorous shooter I have played. I think for any Halo or Gears fan they would find this a silly break from the big budget shooters.

Originality Rating: Above Average

Addictiveness

When I first started playing this game I found it hard to stop until I beat the campaign. I then moved on to the multiplayer and found myself enjoying all of the different modes of play. I can honestly say I can see myself coming back to this game every now and then for a quick match. The odds of this would greatly increase if my friends were into this game. This game has all the right qualities to get someone hooked and that is pretty good for an arcade game.

Addictiveness Rating: Above Average

Appeal Factor

BaboScreen5If you are looking for a cheap shooter, this game is right for you. Not sure after reading this review if this is meant for you? Then download the trial. It includes both the campaign and multiplayer modes and gives you a good feel for what to expect. I know that I will be encouraging my friends to give it a try. At the $10 price point, it is hard to go wrong. There are a lot of games on the arcade not worth $10 but this one I think is worth twice that with all it includes. I think this game will be greatly overlooked by the vast majority of game players and that is too bad as it is a really great game.

Appeal Factor Rating: Classic

Miscellaneous

BaboScreen3Now this has nothing to do with the game but it is worth mentioning. In the beginning when the developer Playbrains comes up it says, “Brains” and that to me was amusing. I guess because I love zombie movies. If it wasn’t for me getting a chance to review this game, I probably would of overlooked it and I am glad I didn’t. This game has a lot to offer for an arcade title. It also shows that Microsoft is putting some effort into releasing some really innovative games for its arcade. If this is a sign of things to come, please keep it coming. I think we could all use some cheap and entertaining games these days.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

The Scores:
Story: Classic
Graphics: Good
Sound: Good
Control/Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Classic
Balance: Classic
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Classic
Miscellaneous: Great
Final Score: Great Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

The gameplay for MadBalls really speaks for itself. So if you’re at all interested, download the trial. It has many of the features of the full game including the Avatar Attack mode. If you are into shooters buy this game as it is a silly escape from regular shooter genre. For 800 MSP($10) you will get what you pay for and then some with so many different multiplayer modes and numerous maps, characters and weapons. Overall this game is a blast and will definitely not disappoint.

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