As a freshly minted deity, its easy to fall in love with Babel Rising. How can I not have a soft spot for a game that prompted me to exclaim, “Ooh, I just made their bones crackle!”? Genesis weaves the tale of the people of Babel, heaven-bent on constructing a skyward tower. While Babel Rising doesn’t give you the power of tongues, or imbue you with any other language skills, you do have seven deadly powers to use against wayward mankind. Which is really OK, because in video game format cursing a people with language just doesn’t translate.
What does work are powers like lightning and wind, earthquakes and tsunamis. The Finger of God is your basic attack as you individually crush willful Babylonians. A vertical swipe is next in the arsenal and brings down the power of lightning, scorching a cluster of humankind. A horizontal line calls forth a divine wind that will target a tier of the level, and using two fingers to drag horizontally summons a tsunami that affects the lower levels of the tower. Two vertical lines rains down fire across the whole tower, a sort of air strike from the heavens.
While the most infrequently available power is the Divine Eye (which levels a whole tier of the tower), the earthquake, triggered by a quick shake to the device, is by far the most satisfying of the attacks. Though the others are plenty fun they just don’t pack the sort of oomph I’d expect to use against a people I wanted to beat God-fearing into. Disappointingly, the earthquake deals no damage to the tower, nor does anything except the Divine Eye. It would be cool, and certainly help suspend some disbelief, if the earthquake or fire caused some damage to the tower that set back the human efforts.
Managing the downtime on the powers is a big part of success in Babel Rising. All powers require a charge, and the more charge the more destruction when released. Powers like the Finger of God and the lightning require the least amount of charge to be used making them your go-to attacks, but allowing them to fully charge deals more satisfying damage.
The primary level is a survival level – it’s a simple game, but not an easy one. This really is a battle against the inevitable, that tower will be erected. It’s easy to keep track of all seven power controls, and controls work reasonably well. Multipliers are triggered by stringing together your attacks, and in Divine Mode gameplay changes a little with a burning bush option and some onscreen bonuses. I ran into the most problems with the lightning power and the burning bush, both requiring a vertical drag. In the case of the former, aiming was a real difficulty, and in the latter it became unresponsive in the middle of a couple matches.
You can (for free) unlock a handful of different backdrops for the tower. I guess it doesn’t really make sense that Shinar would have multiple locations, but taking liberties in this area is a wise move. The funny animations and graphics are the high points of the title, adding the sort of whimsy needed when you’re making a game about a bunch of people on the receiving end of holy wrath. Menus and humans are all excellently rendered and the sound effects are fantastic. This is a game of crowd control, and I actually wished for some icy powers to freeze the little guys. One, because a slowing attack is always handy, and two, I’m confident the folks at BulkyPix would make it into the cutest darn ice attack there ever was.
OpenFeint integration allows you to compare scores and achievements – and there is an impressive list of achievements. Leader boards are a little wonky, however, dividing between versions, scores and play times. The average game lasts about ten minutes, though as you get better you can get into rounds about 15 minutes long, so it’s well timed for squeezing in a game here or there.
Leader boards and achievements drive the re-playability of Babel Rising. Using nature’s power to smite some unfaithful is generally satisfying, but that satisfaction is focused into a few attacks and a generally unvaried level leaving room for a bit of joylessness to creep in. Babel Rising’s unified – and playful – presentation will draw you back in, and at .99 it’s still a gift from above.
Review copy provided by publisher.