"And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel."
The Tower of Babel is one of my favorite religious stories of all time. It epitomizes both our general futility of living a God-like existence, and our insatiable drive to better ourselves.
Of course, Babel Rising, the latest Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network offering only scratches the surface of these metaphysical implications, but does it at least offer you some fun for a lazy Sunday afternoon?
Babel Rising (Xbox Live Arcade [reviewed], PlayStation Network)
Developer: Mando Productions
Released: June 12, 2012 (PSN) / June 13, 2012 (XBLA)
MSRP: $9.99 (PSN) / 800 Microsoft Points (XBLA)
Said humanistic futility is directly incorporated into the gameplay of Babel Rising (which is a complete 3D rework of the successful iOS game), as it is your holy duty as God itself to prevent a bunch of adorable little cartoon citizens from challenging your power. Your mission is to stop them from building a tower to the heavens through any means necessary. In fact, think of it like an anti-Lemmings.
You accomplish this goal by utilizing two of four potential powers: Earth, Wind, Water, or Fire. Each of the two powers has two unique functions mapped to your controller's face buttons. Using the left analog stick, a reticle will guide your powers in the right direction.
For instance, the Earth power nets you the ability to call down boulders, or rip the ground itself asunder. Power diversity is encouraged through a Tony Hawk-style combo system that rewards you for using as many different powers as possible. Enemies make funny noises when you smite them, otherwise distracting from the rather morbid nature of the affair.
Control-wise, everything is pretty straight forward barring one major glaring issue: the camera is controlled entirely with the right analog stick. If you're under attack from multiple angles, you often times have to take your hands off of a button/power to slowly move the camera around.
Even though you can do a quick 180 by pressing in the right analog stick, utilizing the LB and RB buttons (L1 and R1) would have been a godsend here. Babel Rising supports both Microsoft's Kinect and Sony's Move control schemes. For the purposes of this review, Kinect was tested. Thankfully, both control methods are utterly optional, as God himself wouldn't even dream of toying with them for more than an instant (or whatever metric of time he/she perceives as an instant).
To be blunt, the only cool thing about Kinect is that you can yell "Earth, Wind, Water, or Fire" at the screen: so you can pretend you're a Planeteer for five minutes, have your fun, and move on to bigger and better things.
You'll have to bear with some initial disappointment with the game's campaign, as you can sleepwalk through the first five missions, but after that initial offering, the game's intricacies immediately become evident. Builders and Priests -- units that can shield themselves from certain attacks -- start coming from multiple angles, forcing you to constantly survey the area and combine your powers to garner success.
When you're not fighting the aforementioned camera controls, it can actually be quite fun, hectic, and unique. Unfortunately, all of this is over in under two hours, as the campaign only offers a few short missions across three maps/structures. Also, don't go in expecting some grand, enlightening narrative in regards to the deific content of the game. Outside of the setup, everything is presented in a fairly vanilla, cut-and-dry manner -- it's not nearly as entertaining as Rock of Ages' God theme, for example.
Other than the campaign, Babel Rising offers a standard endless survival mode, and multiplayer. Like all puzzle games, unless you're completely hooked, you'll quickly grow tired of engaging in the same survival scenario over and over by yourself (even if you can choose between the game's three levels/towers).
Of course, this repetition will drive you to the game's multiplayer mode over time, which is restricted to two-person local play only. In this day and age, it's practically criminal for an XBLA or PSN game to exclude an online mode, especially in a game that thrives in essentially replaying the same concept over and over.
In fact, Babel's co-op mode is easily the most fun thing it has to offer, as each player takes two of the game's four powers, allowing for some pretty rad combinations. If you don't have anyone readily available to sit down next to you, however, you're pretty much out of luck.
The game currently has a menu option for downloadable content, but as is the case with any given arcade game, nothing is guaranteed. If it's anything like what's on offer from the iOS version, it'll involve things like enraged worker modifiers (x2 speed) or harder difficulties. As of now, you're stuck with what you're given.
Overall, Babel Rising is an interesting concept that ultimately won't hold your interest for very long. There aren't many God simulators out on the market anymore, and the simplistic nature of the game easily could have swayed a ton of new potential fans. Unfortunately, the package is fairly bare bones, and doesn't really deliver any long-term enjoyment. If you buy this, be prepared to turn the other cheek.
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