Babel Rising Makes Me a God (Again!) [Review]

By Rich Shivener in Reviews
Friday, June 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm

If I were a devoted man of some god, I might say that divine intervention offered me a review of the new Kinect-ready, XBLA game Babel Rising. I might also say how strange such an opportunity is - because this is the second time in a year that I've been offered a game centered on the powers of a god. (I reviewed From Dust. Read it here.)

I might be over-thinking the coincidence now. Babel Rising doesn't want me to do that. It wants me to be OK with going through the motions of God and and its almighty powers. I obliged for the sake of this review, but I found more boredom than humor, although I did find a small thrill in acting like an omnipresent force.
Thanks to its creator (ahem), Mando Productions, Babel Rising is a riff on the Tower of Babel stories that spread throughout biblical literature and the like. Basically, in the stories, God stops the construction of the tower, and some say that the building was destroyed. The game subscribes to the latter claim: As God, you vanquish hundreds of defiant heathens who seek to construct a tower. They really don't stand a chance, even when they have priests and ancillary towers helping them. And with this in mind, I can't tell if their deaths, at the hands of God, amount to one big joke or a subtextual way of promoting The Bible. It's a mystery, probably for the best.

"I'm a firestarter, twisted firestarter ..."

God, as the game explains, has the elements of fire, wind, water and earth at its fingertips. In control, you can unleash such firestorms, lightning and bone-crushing boulders on your enemies, racking up high body counts in minutes. Reign over your enemies long enough, and you'll get "ultimate" powers, or what amount to tower-clearing special moves, such as floods and whirling winds. Suffice it to say that the bastards below you see days of reckoning - 15 levels long, to be exact.

Babel Rising, in fact, is a short game, based on the high-selling iOS version that debuted in 2009. I'm glad it isn't too long. By the fifth level, "Wind of Change," in which you kill 450 builders, I lost interest in the novelty that I was God. Sure, I found humor in clapping my hands to control the elements, as well as summoning fearsome powers when I raised my hands high in the air and threw them down. It's just that another force - another spirit, perhaps? - completely sucked away any thrill by level six, "A New Beginning," when Babylon's King Nabu brought in hordes of builders, feeling my undefeated wrath for 9 minutes.  I simply didn't care anymore, thanks to the repetition and slow rise in difficulty. I was ready to take my beliefs elsewhere. What's more, it bears the (holy) spirit of the tower defense genre, more concerned with gameplay than narrative, so I have no reason to criticize the latter.

Overall, if you have certain beliefs, this Babel Rising could be a divine gift; to others, it could be worth a few laughs, and nothing more. To either, it costs 800 Microsoft Points and a few hours of play.

The Official Verdict: 2.5 out of 5

This review is based on an Xbox copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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