Babel Rising, developed by Mando Productions, is an arcade game loosely based on the story of the Tower of Babel. It is published by Ubisoft for XBLA and PSN, and it contains Kinect and Move support respectively. The game’s original platform was the iPhone, and as it grew in popularity it received a port to both the Xbox 360 and the PS3. In Babel Rising, you become God as you attempt to prevent humans from completing the construction of the Tower of Babel. We were given a chance to review the Xbox 360 version.
During the game’s early missions, it provides clear instructions on how to use the multiple powers you have at your disposal as God. The powers available belong to one of four elements: earth, wind, fire and water. You will use these in your quest to halt all construction of towers that reach into the heavens. In the beginning I found that I really only had to use a single element to do most of the damage dealing; however, as I progressed in the campaign I unlocked other elements and faced new challenges that required a bit more finesse. Babel Rising’s 15-campaign missions cycle through objectives for you to complete. Such things like keeping a tower from being built for a set amount of time or killing a certain amount of a specific of enemy type are just two examples. That being said, not a lot of planning is necessary given that most stages preselect the elements that you will be using during that mission.
Babel Rising plays similarly to a tower defense game, as you must ward off waves of enemies. I should note that is does play differently enough in that if given the chance, the workers will build up the tower and once they have completed it you lose. Workers can be taken out easily by your various powers but they end up finding new ways to protect themselves over the course of a mission.
Unfortunately, the campaign begins very slowly, and though I could see that the developers intended to make the game friendly towards casual gamers it came across as downright boring. If you can make it past the first run of stages and still be awake, the game reveals new features that provide a more interesting experience. Priests and builders, which are units that are able to protect themselves from certain attacks, start coming from multiple angles. This forces you to be on the lookout as well as survey your surroundings regularly. Initially this is amusing, but the amusement fades away too quickly. Babel Rising lacks any form of motivation to keep on playing. There is no option to upgrade any of the elements, and inevitably the feeling of boredom creeps in.
Babel Rising supports a pretty straightforward control-scheme, barring one major flaw: the camera is controlled entirely with the right analog stick. When under heavy attack from multiple angles, you often have to take your hands off of a button/power to slowly pan the camera around. I found this to be frustrating and very inconvenient, particularly during some fairly chaotic scenarios. It is possible to perform a quick 180 by pressing in the right analog stick, however that doesn’t always cut it. It should be noted that Babel Rising does support Kinect, however it would seem that playing with the regular controller was the better option of the two.
Besides the campaign Babel Rising offers an endless survival mode, and some multiplayer for those looking for the company of real people. Much 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. Survival mode does provide you with the option to choose between the game’s three levels/towers which all offer there own respective challenges. The game’s multiplayer mode is restricted to two-person local play only. This definitely caught me off guard, given that in today’s day and age it is practically unheard of for an XBLA or PSN game to exclude an online mode. I found this particularly odd considering the fact that a game like this typically thrives off of playing the same scenarios over and over, but with someone else simultaneously, which prevents the sense of repetition. Babel Rising’s co-op mode is actually fairly entertaining. Each player takes two of the game’s four powers, and you have to work together to reach the set objective, much like the single player campaign. If you don’t have anyone readily available to sit down next to you however you are pretty much out of luck.
Babel Rising’s visuals are quite cartoony and they generally look pretty sharp. The well-animated laborers and attractive texture work manages to provide a cheery vibe even when you’re frying said workers. The music in the game gets quite repetitive when playing for sustained periods of time, and all it really consists of is chanting. That being said the sound effects provided when using one of God’s many powers is well done and sounds pleasantly appropriate.
Ultimately, Babel Rising is an interesting concept that will fail to hold your interest for very long. It is a game that is a small package without much to offer, and it doesn’t really deliver any long-term enjoyment. Sure, you’ll discover some neat concepts here, but in the end you should feel, as I did, that you are playing a game that feels unpolished.