Have you heard of the Madballs? Before I downloaded Madballs in Babo Invasion from the Xbox 360 Arcade marketplace I was completely unaware of the craze knows as Madballs which spawned in the mid 1980’s. After looking into the history I was surprised to see that there has been a Madballs cartoon series, comic book and of course; a series of toys. When I first started playing Madballs in Babo Invasion I was describing it to myself as Super Monkey Ball – but with guns. I then found out that Madballs is in fact a sequel to the free webgame called Babo Violent 2. I think this means that this is the third game in the series but the first with the Madballs licence, all a bit confusing isn’t it?
It’s hard to describe Madballs in Babo Invasion but I will try. You take control of an oversized eyeball called Occulus and arrive on strange planet who ends up joining the Babo military (the B*D*I). Your mission is to protect a powerful artefact (the Terracite) falling into the hands of the Mercs. You as Occulus start by rolling around the 3D map in a Monkey Ball esque way but rather than moving the level, your stick movements control the actual character or ball. You’re quickly shown the basics by your commander; Major Stone and then it’s off into the field for Babo’s newest recruit. It’s not long before you encounter your first wave of enemies; these aren’t the evil Merc’s but natural (and aggressive) species to the Babo system. First you’ll encounter Chompiis, these underground creatures pop up and attack anything moving near their nests, they’ll keep rolling towards you until they explode in your eye or you dispatch them with your weapon, luckily all of your weapons can destroy these lightweight baddies.
Like almost every other enemy in the game the next ones you’ll encounter are round balls too, the Moltoks roll towards you in a similar fashion but are much tougher to defeat and require more specific weapon choices to dispatch of in a quick fashion. So you continue through the pretty environments picking up new weapons, collecting keys and flicking switches to open a path towards the boss or next area. What makes Madballs in Babo Invasion more than just a ball rolling maze game is that when you encounter the real enemies; such as the Turret’s and Merc’s things get a little more interesting.
In a similar fashion to the Moltok’s these enemies are usually only susceptible to certain weapon groups, if you happen to have picked up the wrong one further back you’ll find it futilely bouncing off their shields. Combine this with often being in mixed groups and you can easily find yourself under serious threat, however you do have extra things in your arsenal to help you get by. As well as the large selection of guns to pick up (you can only carry one gun at a time) you can also find Grenades and Molotov’s. Because these can be thrown from a distance they can help you catch a snoozing Merc unaware, if you were to miss however you may find you’ve just woke him up and that he’s now rolling after you.
The other major element and one that sadly wasn’t implemented very well is transmogrification. At nearly every checkpoint you will roll past special chambers which will turn you into another one of the Madball family (if you’ve unlocked them that is). Typically most Madballs have varying strengths, weaknesses and special moves which can be useful in certain scenarios; however I hardly ever found the need to change character when Occulus is such a good all-rounder. It would have been better if the levels were designed so that you had more reason to change, or even, be forced to change but alas, they’re not.
That’s pretty much where the single player mode ends but if you are interested in heading online you’ll find a whole host of cool stuff to do. Firstly and most importantly you can choose to play the single player campaign with up to 3 other people, this really does brighten the game up and make the harder difficulty level’s beatable. Battle lovers should be excited by up to 16 player death matches and capture the flag modes as well as the rather intriguing Invasion mode where both sides have to actually build the map in real time. One team does one side and the second team designs the other, then you have the fun of competing to the death on this brand new map. This in game map building is a very clever idea and not one I’ve seen before, I wonder if more games will implement it?
These online skirmishes’ are really intense and the maps which are quite often complex mixes of tunnels and open area’s soon get overcrowded when up to 15 other people are rolling and shooting all about the place. Being a good looking chap I can’t pretend not to have found the Avatar battle mode the most fun; here your Xbox Live Avatar is sent into a chamber and transmogrified into a Madball; or to be more precise a giant floating head. You can’t help but laugh when you battle the silly faces of your friends or random people online, well I can’t anyway.
Madballs In Babo Invasion is a fun pick up and play shooter which is best enjoyed online with your friends and at 800 Microsoft points isn’t too expensive either. There are lots of things to like about Madballs; it’s a solid well made title with very crisp visuals and for the most part, an extremely smooth framerate. Playing the campaign mode on your own is a little stale and if you can play online coop I suggest you do, the basic storyline isn’t particularly gripping but then most games which focus on shooting aren’t famed for great storytelling are they? Madballs has a strong personality and some proper down to earth gameplay but it is lacking that little bit of finesse to make it a classic. I’m confident that the upcoming DLC will add that extra bit of spark so I’m going to award Madballs in Babo Invasion 7 out of 10.
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