|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Playbrains||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Playbrains||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||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 Steam 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-, r co-op play. To top it off, the competitive multiplayer portion allows up to 16 players to challenge each other over Steam in many 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 $9.99. 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. Still, this title has found loads of success on the XBLA and why would Playbrains want to mess with a good thing by changing its title? After all, padding the game with the 80s IP turned out to a good choice.
Gameplay in Babo: Invasion is decidedly entertaining. Whether playing alone, with friends in co-op, or competitively through Steam Matchmaking and Invites, 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 and remains untouched since the XBLA outing, 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. What's more, the often frustrating finite set of lives that often meant re-doing an entire level after getting stuck on the last phase has been eliminated. Now, you'll re-spawn at the last checkpoint. 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, Invasion - the meat and potatoes of competitive multiplayer - is also back. 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. Finally, the PC version of Babo: Invasion brings with it a new versus multiplayer mode called Base Attack. Featuring the same tactical gameplay found in Invasion mode, Base Attack mixes things up by applying that action to 12 Playbrains-crafted maps. Rather than having to adjust on the fly to nail tactical gameplay on a new stage every time, players are able to learn the maps and develop strategy in familiar environments.
Graphically, Babo: Invasion is no slouch on PC. The environments all look tidy, varied, and crisp. The game is also pleasingly colorful, and the enemy design is of high quality despite the reliance on spherical bodies. The resolution is always high, and framerate issues such as screen-tearing seem to have been ameliorated in the move to the PC.