Those Poor Babylonians...
Posted 10 months ago By - Rory Young
Reviewing games for the Xbox 360’s Kinect sensor poses a challenge; it’s difficult to find a good one. There are games that have been released that use Kinect exclusively as the means of control, and then there are games that are labelled “Better with Kinect”. Triple-A franchises like EA’s Tiger Woods and Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon have dipped their toe in the Kinect pool, adding certain features to enhance the experience. Some Kinect-only games have been a success, but most have fallen into the mediocre-to-bad category. Ubisoft’s Babel Rising, released on Xbox Live Arcade (among other platforms), finds itself in a category all its own: it’s a Kinect-compatible game, which lends itself to a negative undertone, but it’s completely playable with a regular controller, which brings it right back to even footing. The question remains, though: is it good?
Babel Rising places you in the rather large shoes of God, and you are armed with all of Earth’s elemental powers - based on fire, earth, water and air - to use against humans that are trying to build the tower of Babel. There are two options for the single-player modes: Campaign, which introduces the game’s mechanics, and Survival, which lifts the restrictions as to how you can dispatch those pesky humans. Through motion-control with Kinect, or by pressing controller buttons, you have the power to cause earthquakes, hurl lightning bolts, and freeze (among other powers) the Babylonians as they climb up one by one and build the tower. As the levels progress, the Babylonians get more and more difficult to defeat, and more plentiful, forcing the gamer to make some choices as to which elements to use. Babel Rising started as a hugely successful iPhone game. Developer Mando productions has given it the 3D treatment and, along with Ubisoft, have ported it to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. I played the 360 version for the purposes of writing this review.
"Babel Rising is a solid buy, through and through...as long as you’re not expecting a solid Kinect experience."
At its core, Babel Rising fits snugly into the tower defense genre of gaming. The major difference, however, is that there are no “towers”, per se, with which to defend. With the implementation of Kinect capabilities, the GAMER is the tower. With different arm movements assigned to the varying attacks, the concept is an ambitious one, and one that should be easy to implement given the fact that the hardware has been in the hands of developers for over two years. Alas, Babel Rising is best played with a traditional controller. My gaming space is set up for the optimal Kinect gaming experience, according to Microsoft’s guidelines. I have ten feet of space in front of the television, and a huge picture window behind it to allow for loads of natural lighting. In spite of all of this, I had great difficulty in getting Kinect to sense my movements when trying to hurl lightning and throw boulders at the poor little Babylonians. When the motions DID get picked up, it usually performed the wrong element that it was intended for. Needless to say, it got frustrating, and fast. So I picked up a controller, and started over...
Kinect was designed to “free” the gamer of the inconvenience of holding a controller. The experience that I had with Babel Rising produced the opposite effect. Using the Xbox 360 controller completely opened up the game for me, and made it 100% more enjoyable. Each element has two different attacks, and before each level, you pick two elements that you would like to use. Each of the four elements are then automatically assigned to one of A, B, X, and Y. Each element also has a “supercharged” attack. A meter fills up at the bottom of the screen with each use of an element, and when the corresponding meter is full, you can trigger the super attack by using LT or RT. Super attacks include things like a hurricane (which blows every Babylonian off the tower) and flash floods (which fill the screen with rising water and sweeps them all away). Supercharged attacks are perhaps the most satisfying parts of the game. Call me a sadist, but it’s a blast playing a destructive deity. It’s comical hearing the lemming-like people screaming as they are swept away.
Visually, there is nothing spectacular about Babel Rising, but that is to be expected. This is certainly not a title that will go down in the annals of Great Graphics, but they are certainly passable. When you rotate the screen to view the towers with the right analog stick, there is no detectable screen tearing, so that’s a plus. But it’s the pick-up-and-play controls that ultimately make the game fun.
There is no online multiplayer in Babel Rising, but there is local multiplayer for two people, with both competitive and cooperative game modes. The multiplayer modes can only be played with controllers, and wisely so.
Babel Rising is a solid buy, through and through...as long as you’re not expecting a solid Kinect experience. Simply put, it’s a fun game with a controller. The Survival mode gives the gamer endless hours of fun, and the campaign can be challenging as it progresses. The 800 MSP ($10) price point is right on the button, as $15 would be too much for this type of game. A rare fantastic port from a mobile game!
+ Lots of replay value
- Online MP could have been fun
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Release Date : 2012/06/13
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Ubisoft
Developer : Ubisoft
Category : Action-Adventure
ESRB : E10+
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