Madballs in…Babo: Invasion has a weird title, so you’d think it’s one of those indie titles that tries to break the mold by doing something extremely weird and abstract.
It is not one of “those titles”, though. It may seem a curious comparision, but I’ll make it now—it’s a game that is not “retro” as it’s not patterned after games from the 80s and early 90s, but it does hearken to the days of the N64 and the PS1. The madballs are like the products of the 80s, large balls with a face on them.
In this title, the balls are characters that are part of two warring factions, and they shoot each other with lasers, machine guns, rockets, and your other standard projectile fare. For the single player fare, there are two campaigns that last a few hours. The sprites and backgrounds look really good for a budget game that take up only 400 MB. They are bright, colorful, varied, and original. The levels are linear in design but not in geometry, with a few sections requiring Sonic-style bursts of speed over twisting curves, others requiring jumps on to platforms, and yet others having mini-puzzles such as pressing buttons in the correct sequence.
The star of the campaigns, though, are the bosses. They have a lot of flair and character to them, and they have the enjoyable old-school flavors of shoot, dodge, shoot, dodge, and “figure out the weakness” to them. The challenge with these bosses (and the levels) is only moderate, with the focus appearing to be on high scores rather than on whether you can beat it. The ride is enjoyable, even though the levels are blazed through. Online co-op is not featured in enough games, either, and this game has it, thankfully.
Multiplayer has potential but ultimately falls flat. There are a handful of levels and modes, but it is poorly balanced, with some heroes and weapons generally being superior. Certain levels especially favor certain strategies, making the competition feel less about skill and strategy and more about uncontrolled chaos. Even worse, it requires plenty of play in single and/or multiplayer to unlock all the weapons and characters. Weapons and loadouts can be changed in between deaths, like in many FPS titles.
I played the demo on Xbox LIVE. The unfortunate thing is that the mouse provides much smoother control and precise aiming, but the console is where all the players are, whether it’s for co-op or versus modes. At either rate, Madballs price-tag is highly reasonable (ten dollars eitherway) and you get a very polished and original take on gun-based action, if not challenging or competitive.
ESRB: E10+ for balls shooting at each other in a cartoony context
Pros: Has co-op, original, lots of content for the money, well-polished
Cons: Community is lacking in Steam when mice are better, versus modes have balance issues, too many unlockables take too much time