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EGM Review: Babel Rising



Who knew playing God could be so frustrating?

“God games” routinely prove that gamers can be the worst kind of people. Given any situation in titles like The Sims or Black & White, we generally don’t look out for our frail minions. No, most of us would rather get our chuckles by trapping people in the middle of natural disasters, or locking them in houses with no toilets so they can die covered in their own feces.

Mando Productions’ Babel Rising isn’t quite as cruel, but the theme of harsh godlike behavior is better justified here. In the context of this title, you’re playing the role of the actual Old Testament God figure, trying to prevent humanity from building the Tower of Babel that aims to pierce the base of Heaven. Naturally, this is an outright affront to your godhood, so you must kill the heretics and crush the tower with all your divine might.

Thankfully, the game doesn’t make this as horrific as the source material, with a cartoony art style and humorous animations taking the seriousness out of the whole experience. As in the original iPhone and iPad title, you can select four elemental powers—earth, wind, fire, and water—to wreak havoc on the humans, using different forms of any two powers at once.

Unfortunately, what worked well as a 2D game and a touchscreen 3D tower-defense title on iOS doesn’t exactly translate well to the PS3 or Xbox 360. While it’s fun to summon earthquakes, wildfires, floods, and hurricanes, the awkward control scheme makes being god a chore. It’s a pain to constantly shift the camera with the right analog stick, and you can’t maintain a good offense without having to break off your attack to reposition the view. Considering that Babel Rising’s built off of combo-based gameplay, it’s all the more frustrating.

As with most Kinect-enabled games, the motion controls feel like an afterthought—and generally don’t work. You can activate certain powers by using voice commands, but even when they work, using the controller is just easier and more precise; waving around your hands in a futile attempt to activate any of your abilities gets old quick.

Actually, that’s the problem with the entire game—Babel Rising gets old before it ever gets interesting. None of powers are upgradeable, and the game will only start to challenge you with annoying special enemy types that can resist your constant natural disasters. Sure, it makes the levels more difficult, but in frustrating way—not via an organic challenge. Even when you’re using bomb-type Ultimate Powers to wipe the map clear with meteor showers and huge tidal waves, the controls and targeting keep you shackled while the enemies multiply. It all just builds to a frustrating mess, and I often wished that I could be doing something else. Like reading a book.

Babel Rising offers some additional content in the form of a survival mode and two-player co-op, but this is one of those situations where playing with a friend doesn’t make the game any more interesting. Graphics that were passable on an iOS device don’t really measure up here, and the animation isn’t improved beyond the muted, bare-bones look in the 3D version of the game. In particular, the execution of godlike powers feels weak outside of a mobile device, and this is one instance where the developers should’ve rebuilt the game from the ground up instead of just porting it.

Ultimately, Babel Rising just comes off as a forgettable downloadable game that doesn’t do anything to stand out from the vast amounts of higher-quality offerings on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. Unless you’re a fan of the iPhone or iPad games and had actually been looking forward to this, just save your digital money for something a little better.

SUMMARY: Babel Rising may have a following on mobile devices, but the gameplay and presentation just don’t translate well to a gaming console.

  • THE GOOD: Raining down brimstone on pathetic mortals.
  • THE BAD: Not being able to use your godly powers to fix the camera.
  • THE UGLY: Realizing that the game was better off in 2D.

SCORE: 4.0

Babel Rising is available on XBLA and PSN. Primary version reviewed was on XBLA.