XBox 360, PS3
There’s just something about the strategy/puzzle genre that lends itself particularly well to deity driven action, was showcased so well in games like Populous, Civilization, Sim City, From Dust or even The Sims. The latest glorified god simulation comes in the shape of a reworking of White Birds’ 2009 mobile game, Babel Rising, given a fresh new lick of paint and some new features ahead of its port to both PlayStation 3 via PSN and Xbox 360 via XBLA. Developed by Mando Productions and distributed by Ubisoft, it’s a title that has plenty of promise initially, but which is ultimately a tad too limited by its approach to really be as good as it could have been.
Like the best puzzlers, the aim is straightforward – you equip yourself with two of four elements which will serve as your weapons in order to prevent those pesky humans from succeeding in building their tower to the heavens. The elements in question are earth, wind, fire and water, and wielding them is a piece of cake; you simply select which ones you would prefer (sometimes your hand is forced here) and then spend your time chucking boulders, lightning strikes and mini tornadoes around like nobody’s business.
As you use your two basic attacks for each element, you’ll build up a super-meter of sorts, that’ll let you unleash a special move capable of clearing most of the screen of enemies. It’s a particularly devastating attack, and one that will save your skin more often than you would like to admit, but it can be risky to use it at times, particularly in levels where you need to prevent the destruction of cursed jars.
To shake things up even further (although nowhere near enough to propel this from a decent attempt to a must-have), the game will also throw priests at you. Not literally mind, as that would be a lot more entertaining, but figuratively. These priests have the ability to offer protection against a single element, making both themselves and any workers around them completely immune to its effects, essentially halving the arsenal you have available. Fortunately, they’re easily dispatched simply by utilising the other element – it’s not exactly rocket science.
On the presentation front it’s hard to find too much fault with Babel Rising. The cel-shaded graphics, while hardly jaw-dropping, are more than up to the task at hand. You’ll be able to rotate the game world, as well as move vertically to keep an eye on the top end of the tower, should your game not be going quite according to plan. It’s smooth and the colours are relatively pleasing to the eye, and your attacks stand out quite well against the brown backgrounds. Yes, this is a decent looking game.
Sound-wise it’s passable at best, which isn’t really an honour, let’s be honest. The soundtrack is a touch irritating, despite having plenty of opportunity to shine throughout the game’s menus, and the in-game effects never quite feel as satisfying as they could… sort of like Worms meets Planet of the Apes if that makes any sense to you.
There’s definitely a lot here to like, but unfortunately the game is let down by a lack of variety. If you’re looking for a strategy game that’s great fun to play in short bursts, then this might be right up your street. Unfortunately, anyone searching for a prolonged experience will likely find themselves growing wary long before time of the repetitive missions and genuine lack of change. Ultimately, Babel Rising is fun, but it could have been so much more. You can smell its mobile game origins from a mile away