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Fear the Sphere- Madballs in Babo: Invasion

Madballs in Babo: Invasion for the Xbox 360. Developer: Playbrains, Publisher: Playbrains ESRB: E

From the recent releases of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra to the upcoming inauguration of Lego Rock Band, there seems to be a proliferation of games based on the toys of our youth. When I first heard an announcement that developer Playbrains was reinvigorating the antiquated Madballs with an Xbox Live Arcade title, I felt of tinge of skepticism; how could a studio construct an interesting game around a series of grotesque rubber balls?

Had Playbrains not taken creative license with the property, gamers would have likely been subjected to yet another tedious Super Money Ball clone. Luckily, the designers seemed to have drawn inspiration from the overhead shooters prevalent during Madballs reign of popularity. Modeled after the run-and- gun style of titles like Ikari Warriors and Assault, Madballs in Babo: Invasion prudently focuses on firepower rather than mere environmental navigation. Players fluidly roll through each environment with the left stick while a tap of the right trigger unleashes a ballistic barrage. Players use the right stick to aim, which simultaneously rotates the screen around the player. At times, each Madball feels like a nimble, spherical tank as it rolls through the colorful terrain.

Madballs has a surprisingly broad selection of fifty unlockables that works well to maintain the player’s interest. Gamers can unlock additional character balls, which vary in size, speed, defensive armament, and offensive capability.  An array of auxiliary weapons is doled out to the player; each gun requiring a different tactic. One example- the beam gun sends out a devastating ray, but forces gamers to retreat while charging, which is quite different from the less powerful, but steady-firing machine gun. Each Madball’s capabilities allow for a different route through the environment; meaning subsequent level play-throughs will be varied.

The game’s multiplayer options include the requisite skirmish, team skirmish, and capture the flag variations. Some modes allow the gamer’s Xbox avatar to be transformed into a humorous-looking, rolling cranium hell-bent on destruction. Clearly, Madball’s most innovative contribution is the title’s invasion option, which allows teams to construct the game map through a Carcassonne-like tile placement system. While a near-limitless amount of environments can be created, most end up being simple affair with a single route or two. Allowing participants to choose a larger map size would have been advantageous to this game mode.

The game’s central caveat stems from the game’s large levels. Like the shooters of yesteryear, background pieces are recycled often enough to make stages appear visually tedious. While this may not unsettle veterans of the Genesis/Super Nintendo era, who are familiarized with tile sets, others may be vexed by the lack of graphical diversity. A secondary criticism has to do with the game’s pacing- while early levels contain infrequent antagonists, as the player preservers, groups of foes unexpectedly appear on-screen. With little forewarning, the player can be quickly surrounded by a team of attackers, altering the typically laid-back style of the game. Although Madball’s framerate is typically fluid, dips transpire when these assaults from multiple opponents occur.

While many players may overlook Madballs in Babo: Invasion, thinking the game is little more than attempt to cash in on an obsolete property, they will be neglecting a solid, retro-influenced shooter. With a strong single player offer, and one of the most unique multiplayer modes in a competitive game, Madballs is unquestionably worth the $10 price of admission for shooter fans.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. Intelligent Zombie

    Not a single ‘ball’ joke. Shame on you, really!

  2. This is out? I never heard of it!

  3. Walker Texas Rapist

    I tried the demo and kinda liked it. If it ever went on sale Id get it for sure.

  4. Is the developer working on a PS3 version? I need to know!

  5. I’ll try the demo tonight after I d/l Batman.

  6. Cool review. Sounds like you bad a ‘ball’ with it.

  7. I just wanted to let you guys know that they are re-release the Madballs. All the old ones a a few new ones.

  8. LOL! I remember these. I wander what toy they’ll make into a game next? Army Men maybe 😉

  9. Why do the graphics look better than GI Joe? HAHAHA

  10. I skipped right over the demo thinking it was a shitty kids game

  11. Good review. I must have missed when this came out. I’m getting the demo right now.

  12. I really loved the trial. I might have to pick this up, even though I was saving for Shadow Complex.

  13. Deagle, you love you some shooters dontcha?

  14. Thanks for the recommendation. This is now one of my favorite XBLA games.

  15. The demo seem alright, nothing great. I was the eyeball guy.

  16. Sounds like it has a lot of content for $10, I’d interested!

  17. How many sp level are there? Oh and how many mp maps?

  18. I just might pick this up. Again, thanks for the info!

  19. Sounds pretty fun, I’ll look into it.

  20. Great looking graphics for a dlc title.

  21. Just bought it, and I really like it. Thanks for the review.

  22. I need to get some more MS points. Anyone know any deals?

  23. I remember these, I used to have 2 or 3 of them. Funny they made a game out of rubber balls.

  24. I played the demo and it seemed boring. Not interested.

  25. Is there local co-op?

  26. There are 10 single player levels, also playable in 4 player online coop.
    There are 21 handbuilt multiplayer levels and the invasion mode creates a new map every time I have never played the same map twice.

    I played 4v4 Invasion mode for 4 hours last night, it was awesome.

  27. Sounds really cool. I’m on it.

  28. All fun until level 4, then the puzzle and boss got all super difficult. How do you kill the singing boss ball?

  29. Prolly due to the fact that it wasn’t a part of the the Arcade Summer thing.