MadBalls in Babo: Invasion, (MiBI), was recently released (ed. July 15, 2009), for 800 points on Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade. It’s a third person and top-down arcade shooter whose resident characters are rolling heads with guns attached.

MadBalls, made famous by the toys and cartoon series by American Greetings in the 1980′s, collide with the Babo universe established in the prequel freeware game Babo Violent 2. We took the game for a roll and were blown away with it’s fresh gameplay and broad amount of content.

Singleplayer and Co-op

The campaign is a story-driven series of 10 large missions in a wide variety of themes from Jungle to Space and can be played in singleplayer mode or 4 player co-op. The story is conveyed through a series of hand drawn art tiles between levels with text scrollers, and there’s plenty of backstory and humor to be found by finding all 50 books littered throughout the levels.

Players choose to play as heroes or villans, then, much like in Team Fortress pick a character class such as Assault, Heavy or Runner to start the game. Each of the 10 characters on offer has it’s unique super abilities and strengths, boosting replay substantially. Control is well tuned and players will quickly find themselves carving through hordes of enemies much like in the much loved game Serious Sam.

A nice touch is the scaling difficulty level which adjusts to the number of players connected in realtime: In 4 player Co-op on hard difficulty, we were faced with fast, tough enemies and splitting giants that would break into dozens of smaller enemies until we were swarmed at all angles.

With coordinated teamplay, and by utilizing the wide mix of unlockable characters, abilities and weapon modes in concert, we were able to beat the higher levels and achieve a sense of gaming bliss like that which comes from defeating the greatest arcade games of yesteryear. A Level Attack mode is also offered wherein players earn time bonuses for beating the level in a race against the clock

”Beat the higher levels and achieve a sense of gaming bliss like that which comes from defeating the greatest arcade games of yesteryear.”

And that’s just the thing about this game. Classic arcade action is elegantly reintroduced in a game that still has all the features we have come to expect on our next generation console platforms. The game has a quick pick up and play feel to it. There’s no set up time, you can choose to enjoy the detailed environment, story line and characters or just grab a gun and go to it.

The level challenges and bosses are unique but still, naturally, scale up in difficulty as the game progresses. The “Chompiis” are some of the most satisfying characters in the game, they are individually fun to mow down with your favorite weapon but can become surprisingly difficult when they gather in numbers. Chompii battles are visceral and reminiscent of a game of asteroids at the local coin-op back in the day.

The scoring system in single player, co-op and multiplayer is more like what you would find in a pinball game than a shooter with the high score values and multiplier pick ups throughout the level. Scoring highly is all about the multipliers and there’s always a certain level of satisfaction to be gained when you post a high score in the millions, especially when your friends and rivals still haven’t found that secret room with the 5x multiplier stations in it.

Player versus Player

Classic arcade fun aside, MiBI delivers on innovation as well, combining a rich roster of characters and abilities with some original player vs. player game modes never seen before. In addition to basic modes like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag across a generous 21 handcrafted and excellently designed maps, the game also offers an XBox Live Avatar mode and the spectacular Invasion game mode.

”Invasion mode innovates by turning map making into part of the gameplay challenge.”

While we have seen multiplayer map making offered on retail console games before, it has always been a tedious endeavor, working your controller to modify hieghtfields and place trees before you fall asleep. Invasion mode innovates by turning map making into part of the gameplay challenge. Each round starts in a construction phase with players taking turns making a series of tile placements.

The tiles can be rotated for optimal placement and have elements like paths, ramps, buildings and raised platforms. Once tile placement is complete, a voting round occurs where the teams vote on base deployment and control point locations. Then the map is generated and players drop into combat on a unique map every time!

Team communication is key here so bases are placed in protected areas while stations help create strategic routes. Adding to gameplay depth, control points can be reinforced with turrets or healing pods. I feared that this game mode would be lengthy but after only a day and half on XBLA, there are plenty of matches and this is fast becoming the favorite game mode among MiBI players.

The most popular game mode is the Avatar attack. As mentioned in our preview, you will see your Avatar lovingly processed (ed. by decapitation) to emerge but only a head with a gun mounted on the ear. Brilliant! Avatar Attack is a free for all skirmish mode that provides frantic, pick up and play action with some reasonable balance as all the avatars have the same special abilities, hop and super jump.

You may want to play the campaign and unlock a few extra weapons and weapon modes before entering the foray as it can be quite challenging if you come up against the hardcore players that have already unlocked everything. That said, you can unlock weapons in any game mode so there’s no harm in trying as skill beats all in this game.

”Madballs in Babo: Invasion rolls right to the top of the heap… bursting at the seams with maps, modes and polish that rivals even retail games.”

Summary

The scope of digital download titles on Xbox Live Arcade is evolving. Throughout last year, studios were shipping small titles that were just fun enough to make the player feel that they got suitable value in a digital purchase. The odd title here or there would ship for and you might spend a week with each game.

As we reach the midpoint of 2009 we are seeing select studios release games with dramatically increased breadth and substantially more design effort. Madballs in Babo: Invasion rolls right to the top of the heap in this regard, bursting at the seams with maps, modes and polish that rivals even retail games. Even with a head full of confetti, this game’s a no brainer at 800 MS Points!

Jason Creation – We have the best online sources for you to get a great Madballs Invasion Review and Xbox Live Arcade Reviews at Digital Download Game World.


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