Madballs In BABO Invasion Review: Keeping Your Balls In Check
HEY! Madballs. It’s been a long time. How have you been? It’s amazing you haven’t changed a bit since I saw you last. What have you been up to for the last, say, 15 years or so? What? You’ve got a new video game? Nooo…. that doesn’t even make sense. So many questions – the first one being why? That’s crazy. I honestly can’t believe you have your own video game. And, what’s this? It’s actually kind of good. That’s it, my mind is officially blown. I don’t even know how to process this.
That’s pretty much how a conversation I would have with Madballs would go if they weren’t weird inanimate objects from my youth, lllllooonnnggg forgotten. Much like Widget the World Watcher, the Fry Kids, and Fraggle Rock, I thought their time had completely passed, and they simply disappeared off the face of the earth when Regan finished his second term. Apparently, I was wrong. Like snap bracelets and fluorescent clothes (damn hipsters), the whole Madballs gang has risen from the overindulgent dust of the 1980s and reappeared, complete with their own video game, “Madballs in BABO Invasion”, for the Xbox Live Arcade.
The team at Playbrains has developed an entire title around rolling around as a ball and shooting things. While it may sound like a simple concept, the game is actually very well done, and, more importantly, fun to play. “Madballs in BABO Invasion” is a top-down shooter that offers a (completely unnecessary) story based single-player campaign that allows you to pick your favorite Madballs faction (Babo or Scorched in case you might not remember) and run wild with an assortment of weapons. That’s the basics. The story is a little outlandish, after all its stars are the Madballs, and can be a little hard to follow - just know that you need to shoot anything that moves. However, the single player is really just a vehicle for the really solid multiplayer modes. Just overlook the invasion, and the spaceship, and the snow and jungle levels – they’re all just training for going head-to-head with other players on Xbox Live.
Unfortunately, if you want to have any kind of a chance online, you’re going to have to unlock all the characters and weapons by meeting certain requirements throughout the single player campaign. (Updated note: the unlocks can also be done in multiplayer, since they mostly center around dealing damage - your best bet is to get your unlocks out of the way in the single player). It’s not a huge burden, mostly because the single player isn’t bad, it’s just not as good as jumping right into the multiplayer. Depending on which side of the Madballs universe you prefer to play as, the game should run you about eight to ten hours or so, but if you want to unlock everything, figure it’s double that.
The controls in the game are, for the most part, pretty tight, all around, which is important since some other games where you roll around have controls that tend to be a little loose, or too based on in-game momentum. “Madballs” have fine tuned their balls so that each has a unique speed and control associated with them, and, while each different ball may have a learning curve associated with using it, that curve isn’t that steep. One of the few things that may take players a little time to get used to is the recoil on some of the guns, since each weapon has its own effects on the character shooting it; heavier characters move less than lighter ones. It’s simple, but if you don’t adjust for it, you’ll end up accidently falling off of ledge after ledge.
So, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, the multiplayer is where “Madballs” really shines. It’s a fast-paced, action-packed experience that really puts your twitch gaming skills to the test. Sure, the game packs all the standard modes of most multiplayer games (death match, capture the flag) but “Madballs” does include a couple of modes unique to this game. The first, and possibly most interesting, is the Avatar Attack mode which allows you to play as your avatar in the game… as a Madball. The games begin with your character being squished down like a meatball to the appropriate size and shape to go up against other players, Madballs style. You use the same weapons, and play on the same levels, the only real difference is that your head explodes with confetti when you “die”; no blood to be shed here. In addition to Avatar Attack, there’s also a mode that allows you to create your own levels in a head-to-head manner, and play them as soon as you have dropped your bases in, and they are complete. Unfortunately, you’re not able to save your creations, but, you’ll also never play the same game twice. If this was a full retail release, I wouldn’t have been surprised about the robustness of the multiplayer mode, but, again, this is an XBLA gam. There aren’t many other Arcade titles that can hold a candle to what “Madballs” has to offer, at least in terms of being a multiplayer game.
The team at Playbrains managed to construct a really interesting, fun, and engaging game from a franchise that most people either never heard of, or thought was long dead. That’s a pretty serious feat; it’s the video game version of bringing something back from the dead. To top that off, they released it on the perfect platform, XBLA, and gave the Xbox community a great downloadable multiplayer option to go alongside some of the other killer titles released this summer. Whether your a Madballs fan or if you just like to shoot a lot of moving targets, “Madballs In BABO Invasion” is definitely worth your time and energy.
“Madballs In BABO Invasion” was developed and published by Playbrains for the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade on July 15th, 2009.