Madballs in Babo: Invasion Xbox Live, PC Review


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Anyone remember the Madballs, a series of toys originally in circulation in the eighties? No, me neither really, but they were just rubber balls, with a series of grotesque faces on them, each with a suitably unpleasant name. At the time there were quite a few spin-offs, including TV shows, and a computer game, and now Madballs are back, with the toys recently being re-released, and what do you know, a video game to go with them.

Technically though this isn’t really a Madballs game, but in fact a sequel to PC title -BaboViolent 2, with a couple of the Madballs characters thrown in. But who cares about branding, all that matters is if the game is fun or not. Well there’s certainly plenty here for your 800 Microsoft points, so lets have a look at what you get. Single-player wise you get a fair sized campaign comprising of ten lengthy levels.

The gameplay is an interesting mix of Marble Madness, coupled with a top down shooter. You negotiate a maze like map, activating switches and avoiding obstacles interspersed with attacks from gun wielding spheroids. Along the way you will unlock other characters to switch between, with different abilities, and of course more weapons, all with secondary functions.

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The weapons you get are pretty standard fare for a shooter, machine guns, shotguns, laser, sniper rifle, flamethrower, etc, but the secondary functions add a little variety. These are all linked to the weapons primary function, but with an interesting twist, for example the flamethrowers secondary function is a freeze blast.

You can play campaign modes on your own, or with up to three of your friends in co-op mode, which scales up the difficulty depending on the amount of players. Versus multiplayer modes are really where the fun is to be had though, with a good range of game types on offer. Like most shooters you get a version of Deathmatch, called Skirmish, a team Skirmish, and Capture the Flag modes, all pretty standard stuff. On top of that you also get avatar mode, where the head from your avatar becomes the ball you play with, and it’s always fun to blow up your friends avatars.

The jewel in the crown of the games multiplayer mode is Invasion mode though, the gameplay is familiar, with teams capturing bases, but it’s the way the levels are created that makes it special. At the beginning of a round each team takes turns selecting a piece for their side of the map, and then vote on their base and node positions. It’s certainly a new take on user created content, and it guarantees a different level every game pretty much every time, which can only be a good thing.

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This could well be the most content heavy game on Xbox Live Arcade so far, with ten single player levels and twenty one multiplayer maps, but they haven’t skimped in other departments either. Presentation is top notch, with some excellent graphics, with your balls being well detailed, and a good size, so they aren’t lost in the scenery.

The levels themselves follow a number of themes, spaceships, Egyptian ruins, forests, and so on, and are all well presented and very atmospheric. Sound hasn’t been neglected either, with some nice ambient music to accompany the action, and an excellent selection of sound bites for all the different characters. Top that off with plenty of very nice shooting and explosion effects.

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There’s not a lot you can fault this game on really, except in one area, and that’s that it can get a little bit laggy when you are playing with the full sixteen players. Even then though it’s not that bad, and is probably dependant on the speed of your own internet connection, so if you’ve got a decent connection you should be OK.

There have been some outstanding releases over Xbox Live Arcade recently, and Madballs in Babo:Invasion does not buck the trend. It’s fast, colourful and most of all fun, and at the bargain price of 800 MS points (£6.40 in real money) you can’t really go wrong. A must buy for fans of fast paced arcade shooters.

8/10

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Version tested: Xbox Live, PC

Developer: Play Brains

Publisher: Headgames

Genre: Shooter

Players: 1-16