|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Playbrains||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft Game Studios||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 15, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4 (16 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Madballs in Babo: Invasion is not your typical, churned-out XBLA entry as the title may convey. In fact, it's a bargain-priced offering that provides gamers with a fun, third-person shooter for either single- or co-op play. To top it off, the competitive multiplayer portion allows up to 16 players to challenge each other over Xbox LIVE in five different combat modes focused on challenging and addictive gameplay. All of this adds up to a great value with lasting appeal. That being said, this is a standard arcade shooter (with minor puzzle-solving in the campaign and frantic competitive action online). As such, be sure the genre interests you before slapping down the MS Points. Still, I was pleasantly surprised with what's on offer in Babo: Invasion, and I've got a feeling this sleeper title will convince more than a few wary gamers.
Babo: Invasion uses the Madballs license in an attempt to broaden its appeal. However, Madballs haven't been popular since I was in the fourth grade. Even then, they couldn't hold a candle to Garbage Pail Kids or M.U.S.C.L.E. Men. Moreover, only a handful of the classic characters from the franchise are used, and the Madballs-infused story-arc is wholly insignificant. Finally, the "Madballs in " portion of the moniker severely dumbs-down the impact of the title, curbing its appeal. Consequently, I'm not sure why Microsoft Game Studios felt compelled to have developer Playbrains pad the game with the 80s IP.
Marketing foibles aside, gameplay in Babo: Invasion is decidedly entertaining. Whether playing alone, with friends in co-op, or competitively through Xbox LIVE, rolling around the labyrinthine environments as a little ball, toting high-powered weaponry, and turning foes into goo is a good deal of fun. While shooting at everything that moves is simple enough, the constant obstacles thrown at you and the mild platforming maneuvers that need to be executed from a top-down perspective are demanding enough to keep you playing. Adding fuel to the fire are the host of unlockables and the exponentially-growing point tally (further enhanced through leaderboard support).
The campaign portion of the title tells an asinine tale of enlightened, lost aliens and their journey through space. While the story is completely inconsequential, making your may through the 10 puzzling levels, taking out minions, and socking it to the challenging, level-ending boss battles makes for an engaging campaign despite the poor narrative. Also, uncovering all the hidden bits, unlocking new characters, classes, weapons, and enhanced abilities that you can take over to multiplayer is more than enough incentive for players to buzz through the story mode. As icing on the cake, online multiplayer co-op is a nice touch, adding a distinct flare to the gameplay.
Once you've bested all the baddies and worlds of Babo, taking your hard-won skill set online to compete against fools in frantic 16-player battles keeps the fun going and makes the time spent in single-player more rewarding. The game lets players challenge each other in classic Skirmish, Team Skirmish, and Capture The Flag multiplayer game modes. Also, Avatar Attack allows Xbots to turn their Avatars' heads into rolling commandos - taking out randoms' too-hip-to-be-accurate Avatars is surprisingly gratifying. Finally, the game's online showstopper is that of Invasion. Rather than just teaming up with other players and protecting a pre-set, specified zone, teams are actually able to design their own sides of the battlefield from a bunch of environment tiles. This makes Invasion games play out uniquely even after several runs through.