Reviews
Babel Rising

By Seán O'Sullivan - June 27th, 2012

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Babel Rising is the latest in a growing stable of ‘god games’ for Xbox Live Arcade; but with an intriguing hook: gamers play the role of an angry god, whose sole activity is smiting unruly humans as they conspire to build a tower into the heavens. It might sound like a great angle, but the game struggles to keep the experience fresh after the initial novelty wears off.

Babel Rising is a 3D reinvention of the original iPhone game from 2009, but the fact that it began life as an iOS game is no reason write it off (it was the debut platform for Swords and Sworcery, after all). The trouble is, a game design that’s designed to provide a quick fix of entertainment while killing time often doesn’t make for an experience worth booting your console up for, even with the kind of additions that have been made to the formula.

Here’s the gist of the game-play: the player rotates a camera through 360 degrees, as puny humans swarm into the centre, building a structure spiraling upwards. The player must constantly swap to different sides and tiers of the ever-growing ramp, swatting the humans back with fire, water, earth, and wind attacks. Each element has a ‘super’ meter that charges up through use, which can be cashed in for floods, meteor showers, tornadoes, and rolling boulders o’ doom. Game-play boils down to swapping between sides of the tower, prioritizing targets, and using the correct power-ups correctly.

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Shocking!

The game does a number of things to subvert the basic formula, to mixed result. Siege towers skip workers to upper levels of the tower, some enemies are invulnerable to certain powers, and cursed enemies must be avoided, or they temporarily disable attacks, often to debilitating effect. These wrinkles remove an element of rote game-play by disrupting the usual rhythm, but it doesn’t compensate for some of the most wickedly overlong campaign missions ever devised.

The cliche “a watched pot never boils” never rang true for me – maybe because I have never been that desperate for hot water; but good lord if the campaign missions didn’t have me watching my mission timer with bated breath! “Destroy 30 Siege Towers”*. “Sink 72 ships”. “Survive 9 minutes”**. If it’s in service of teaching the rules of the game, it’s the kind of overkill that fosters begrudgery, as the focus is taken away from stopping the tower-builders (when that tower is complete, it’s game over), which is basically the only thing that should be focused on. These objectives don’t do anything to remix or complement the core game-play; they just expand what ought to be two minutes of frantic fun into a chore; especially when the soundtrack is about eight cacophonic sound samples – the most common of which is a Raving Rabbids-style ‘Waaaaaaaah’ that repeats ad-nauseam.

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The most efficient way to wash the tower. Not the best way to keep the workers alive, though.

At just 800MSP ($9.99 on PSN), Babel Rising is a value-title with an impressive feature set, including Kinect support, split-screen cooperative and adversarial multi-player, in addition to the core campaign and survival modes. While some will manage to eke value out of these additional offerings, I grew weary of their novelty within a few moments.

Ultimately, Babel Rising fails to hold interest beyond the first few campaign missions. The sparse few game-play mechanics and basic presentation do little to enthrall, and while its competence as a mindless activity is assured, there are far better games to play when you have an Xbox or PS3 controller in your hand.

* – Thirty!
** – Why?
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    2 responses so far:
  2. By Rebecca
    Posted on Jun 28, 2012

    Given my ever-dwindling faith in humanity these days, I’m about ready to play a game where I get to smite puny humans.

  3. I sort-of agree with Sully on a few points. I have to say that I must be a pretty boring person if I find this fun.

    Perhaps it is because I used the Kinect interface to play. It’s a bit more enjoyable in terms of the usage of motion to pretend that I am smiting the crap out of these pagan bastages.

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