Having started life as a popular iOS title, converting Babel Rising to a motion-controlled console title may not have been the most obvious path to take, and yet that’s exactly what Ubisoft has done. Babel Rising is essentially a god sim in which your disciples are attempting to build a tower, however unlike the traditional formula for the genre the idea here is not to assist them, but to prevent them from doing so.
With regards to Babel Rising’s motion-control, as with the recent recreation of Dragon’s Lair for Xbox LIVE Arcade, it is an optional extra. Babel Rising can be played perfectly well with just a standard control pad, and of course is open to a much wider audience because of it. Kinect (or PlayStation Move) does offer a different experience, and a welcome one at that, but once the going gets tough any gamer worth his or her salt will find that the analog stick and button combination is far more reliable than the loose connection between player and virtual interface.
The best place to begin with Babel Rising is, as would be expected, the Campaign mode. Offering gamers a light series of tutorials before the challenge begins proper, players will quickly become accustomed to monitoring pathways and entrance points whilst balancing the recharge times of their abilities. Babel Rising grants the player abilities with which to kill the workers building the tower, and the player must use the appropriate ability for the number of workers they wish to kill. In reality that’s the long-and-short of Babel Rising, but phrasing it so simply doesn’t do the videogame justice.
The abilities offered to the player are divided into elemental categories, and only a select amount may be chosen before each level which are automatically assigned to the face buttons. Killing the tiny delinquents with a specific group will build your special for that element, activated by either the left or tight trigger. These specials can not only take down a great number of workers, but also damage the tower as it stands, requiring workers to fix previously completed areas before progressing. This double barrelled attack makes your special abilities both a satisfying devastation attack and a last line of defence; managing their use wisely is the key to success on later levels.
Gaining high scores is also a part of the mixture, with a combo system designed around using key powers in turn to kill as many humans as possible before the combo meter times out. However, in play the combo meter works better for a measurement of progress towards filling the specials than actually attempting to achieve a high score, unless you find yourself replaying campaign levels with the goal of beating your friends.
In addition to the Campaign are the Survival and Multiplayer gameplay modes. Survival is just that: playing against endless waves of enemies which increase in difficulty for as a long a duration as you possibly can. Multiplayer is an interesting arrangement, where combos lend themselves another facet in that they increase the strength of the waves sent at your opponent. A co-operative multiplayer mode is also included, which is an interesting addition and one that will extend the life of the videogame for those so inclined, but sadly both multiplayer components are restricted to local play only. As such the lack of any online gameplay will annoy many.
The visual quality of Babel Rising is commendable. Of course, it doesn’t need to be striking, but there’s a great deal of character tucked away in its various shades of brown. Each of the types of human you will encounter are immediately distinguishable, and the way in which the tower builds is clearly the work of a clever design team putting their heads together to address both a player’s remaining life (as of course, this is essentially what the tower represents) and to maintain that charming characterisation seen elsewhere.
The Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network titles that have been delivered in the last few years often draw parallels with older titles; 16- and 32-bit videogames given a modern lick of paint and released digitally, for the retail space is no longer welcoming to them. This is exactly where Babel Rising fits into the marketplace. It’s both familiar and unique in its own right, as any gamer will immediately feel at home with Babel Rising, while at the same time finding themselves engrossed in a fresh new challenge. Babel Rising is a welcome addition to the digital marketplace for consoles, and one which deserves recognition as more than a simple iOS port.