We love to pick up and play games without much knowledge of what is greeting us. I’m one of those people who don’t read instructions and wants to access a game as soon as I’ve ripped open the packaging or the download completes.
So I was quite pleased to come across Madballs in Babo: Invasion, or for short Madballs as we’ll call it. This is my sort of game. No need to read the instructions, just drop into the game without even knowing what you are about to play and just blast the hell out of everything, or at least that is how things are supposed to work. A little bit of research informs me that Madballs is actually a brand name in America, however the game itself rarely refers to this and only features two characters in the game. The name was used to try and entice a few more punters to the game. Not exactly what I’d call a great marketing ploy, but still.
You control a ball with a gun and this very simple but effective idea can produce a somewhat solid Arcade title. There is a story to the game which plays out at the beginning of each level, but if like me your eager to jump in, you’ll be pushing the A button, faster than you can say ‘balls’.
The joysticks push the ball around the arena and control the movement of the gun. Just fire the trigger and you can literally just keep blasting the hell out of everything. Tap the Y or A button and you’ll get each weapons secondary feature. It starts off a little dull however, with a few weak enemies and not much to the environments to keep you entertained. Everything is very colourful and the graphics are spot on for a game of this nature, but you’ll spend most of the time rolling around as quickly as possible, shooting enemies and moving on.
Granted, there is an array of extra weapons at points through the levels and other unlockables and secrets to find, but sometimes Madballs leaves you feeling a bit underwhelmed by the whole experience. When you encounter a decent AI battle, it can be quite difficult to keep avoiding the onslaught of bullets before you quickly die.
There is also an issue with the environments sometimes trapping you, with little or no scope to move elsewhere. The ball cannot jump which is something I feel is missing from the game to enhance it. Sometimes you might get trapped in a pit or crevice and you’ll have to restart to the find the other route around. Niggles like this are frustrating but don’t hinder the fun-factor.
An iso-metric 3D viewpoint is how you’ll be looking at the game, or there is the option to have a top-down view. As I mentioned, the graphics are colourful and effective but the iso-metric view left me feeling a little queasy at times. I’m not one for motion-sickness, but I did have to stop playing at intervals and this was purely down the viewpoint. I remember similar problems with Sonic 3D!
Progression in the game will unlock new characters to have a blast with, and you can always play with up to four others on the Co-op, which is a nice addition. The bulk of single-player is fairly straight-forward and you’ll earn achievements for completing it and finding the various secrets, though I wasn’t particularly bothered by finding these.
Online, the main mode is called Invasion. This gives you the chance to build a section of map in your allocated half, whilst the other players do something similar. It works fairly well and makes the experience more interactive between friends or possibly a bunch of randoms. One of my favourite online modes however, is the Avatar mode, with Madballs being one of the first games to make decent use of your Xbox Avatar. Your head is rolled into a ball and you can shoot the hell out of each other and finally put to justice which one of you is the ugliest avatar. The standard sorts of game matches are included, such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag.
If you want a simple but yet responsive shooter with some cracking controls, then Madballs is the one to download. I still felt slightly under-whelmed overall however by the experience. It was fun and has a lengthy single-player mode and a decent set of Xbox LIVE features, but the game’s premise is very much the same throughout.