While tower defense typically involves strategically placing traps and turrets, and God sims generally bestow ultimate control and power, Babel Rising does neither. Developed by Mando Productions, Babel Rising is Ubisoft’s latest addition to the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Store. Originally created as a mobile touchscreen game, Babel Rising is Mando Production’s first step into the console world. Unfortunately they didn’t step far enough.

The game puts players in the role of a spiteful God. Unhappy with the Babylonians for their attempts at building a massive, heaven-scraping tower, The Almighty decides to smite the heretics.

Developed by: Mando Productions
Published by: Ubisoft
Genre: Tower Defense
Platform: PlayStation 3 (PSN) Xbox 360 (XBLA), iOs & Windows Phone 7
Play it if: You really want to use Kinect in a game designed for touchscreen platforms.
Skip it if: You want at least a moderately deep, strategic tower defense game.

Despite being omnipotent, players are limited to their choice of two out of the four elements during each match. Each element has a trail attack (which can be dragged around the screen with the cursor), and a local attack (which launches a single-shot strike in a specified location). Also antithetical to God’s all-powerful reputation, players must wait for each individual attack’s mana meter to refill before it can be used again. By using regular attacks, players fill each element’s super attack meter, eventually launching a large scale attack with said element.

At the start menu, players are given the choice to dispense heavenly wrath through campaign, survival, and multiplayer modes. Survival mode, as one would imagine, allows players to fend off the little tower-builders as long as they are able. The multiplayer mode (limited to two-player, split-screen) includes both cooperative and competitive segments. Players can either work together to defend a tower in cooperative survival, defend separate towers while attempting to outlast their opponent, or compete to rack up the highest score in a set amount of time. The single-player campaign is comprised of 15 increasingly difficult missions with goals limited to killing a certain amount of specific enemies, avoiding killing certain enemies, or surviving for a specified time.While using a controller is an option, Babel Rising sells itself as a Kinect-enabled game. Unfortunately, like a majority of motion controlled games, the controls are spotty and unresponsive at best. At their worst, they are downright wrong; wasting mana by activating unintended attacks, or spinning the camera at inopportune moments. Although the voice control is slightly more responsive, using the Kinect is immensely frustrating, especially at higher difficulty levels. Even pausing the game via motion controls is aggravating, requiring players to stand perfectly still while enemies continue to advance. Physically running from the room is actually a quicker way to pause, forcing the Kinect to stop and ask where the player has gone. And, when players finally (and inevitably) lose patience with the Kinect, picking up a controller mid-game is pointless as Babel Rising requires players to go all the way back to the start menu to switch control schemes. The developer may have been trying to provide players with the ability to wield godly powers with their fingertips, but the Kinect is so finicky and inconsistent it’s more aggravation that it’s worth. Using a controller does make the game far more playable, but it still doesn’t make it fun.

Babel Rising looks surprisingly crisp, especially for a ported mobile game. The cell-shaded art style works well with the game’s mood. Plus, annihilating the adorable little Babylonian hordes is made satisfying not only by their screams (which sound uncannily like Jawas), but also by the hand-drawn little souls that fly out of every one of them as they meet their demise. Babel Rising’s unique, Arabian style soundtrack matches the feel and spirit of the game in that it too is repetitive, tedious, and overall quite uninteresting.

During my time with Babel Rising I also encountered game-breaking glitch where a frozen timer forced me to physically quit the game, losing all my progress. It wasn’t until I actually uninstalled and redownloaded the game that the glitch finally went away.

Blast Factor: Although technically listed in the genre, Babel Rising can barely be considered a tower defense game. With its very limited attacks and nonexistent turret or trap options, Babel Rising requires little to no strategy. Instead of actually defending anything, players prevent the construction of a tower by mindlessly blasting everyone in sight. The game’s incredible lack of depth, mission variety, gameplay options, and enemy variations make Babel Rising become boring very quickly. Although these problems may be overlooked in the average mobile game, they won’t cut it in the big leagues. As a badly ported, mediocre touchscreen game, there is no way that I can recommend Babel Rising on the Xbox 360. Pricing the game at 800 Microsoft Points ($10.00) is insulting, especially when it’s currently available on its original platform for less than half that price.

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