Review: Babel Rising (XBLA)

Review: Babel Rising (XBLA)

The first detonation of a nuclear device was made possible by Robert Oppenheimer’s work. In later interviews, he recalled the test explosion, and the thought that had come to his mind at that moment: “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” from the Bhagavad Gita. I believe that, like Oppenheimer, we all have a little bit of the destroyer within us to varying degrees, whether evident or not. Denying one’s nature is unhealthy, and releasing our inner destroyer from time to time is absolutely essential in order to maintain balance. The trick is to do it in a way that doesn’t cause any harm or lasting damage. That’s where video games come in, and in that aspect, Babel Rising is perfect.

Babel Rising does not play host to a kind, loving, and forgiving god. No, Babel Rising explodes with the wrath and destruction of a vengeful, spiteful, petty god. So…you know…the fun kind. The puny humans (I just recently re-read Planet Hulk/World War Hulk, so I’m in a Hulky kind of mood) that live under your purview have the interminable audacity to begin construction of a tower capable of reaching the heavens, in much the same manner as the mythical Tower of Babel for which the game is named. Angry god has one thing to say about the puny humans’ plans: homey don’t play dat.

That’s when the metaphorical sock filled with rocks or tennis balls swings at the head of humanity.

The foundation is laid, and the building commences. Workers bring construction materials up the spiraling walkway, expanding it with each successful traversal. Destroying the workers before they can reach the current end of the walkway prevents them from extending it further, with each stage having a different set of win parameters. Some require you to defeat a certain number of a certain type of worker, while some require you to simply make it for a period of time without losing your battle. You are allowed to choose two out of your four available elemental powers for each stage (earth, wind, fire, and water), and you are awarded points and special attacks for a well varied use of your abilities in combat. The selection of powers is partially a matter of preference, and partially a matter of strategy. Most workers die from whatever you send their way. Priests, however, have the ability to negate damage within a bubble from a certain elemental attack. A fire priest provides a bubble of protection from fire based attacks, so earth, wind, or water attacks must be used.

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Aside from the short and shallow story of the campaign, Babel Rising offers an endless survival mode and a two-person local co-op mode. There is no online multiplayer whatsoever, which is odd in this day and age for a downloadable title, in my opinion. That being said, the endless survival mode is interesting, but eventually tiring, while the local co-op allows each player to control two of the available powers, resulting in the full power set being available for some ridiculously fun destruction.

Overall, the game is actually really fun. The puny human death animations and sound effects make me giggle with sociopathic glee, while the graphics themselves are cute and cuddly, belying the gruesome and grizzly nature of the game’s mechanics. Kinect is implemented well enough, but the controller input is definitely preferable for control and accuracy, and the story mode, which could have been approached with a dark sense of humor or grandeur, was a letdown. Regardless, crushing, burning, drowning, and otherwise smashing the upstart humans is worth the admission price. At 800MSP / $9.99, Babel Rising is available now on both Xbox LIVE Marketplace and PSN, and is definitely a welcome outlet for the destroyer in each of us.


Story mode could have used more depth
Local co-op only
80 out of 100

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