They are mad, mad little armed-to-the-teeth balls.
MadBalls in... Babo: Invasion is a weird little game. Apparently, the name MadBalls goes back to the '80s, as a bizarre toy line involving rubber balls with disgusting faces. Weirdly enough, Baboo Invasion apparently has little to do with the toy line besides a few characters, even though you still play as scary little balls with faces. And guns.
[image1]The story here is so convoluted that I wouldn't even bother trying to understand it - the only bit I was able to grasp before totally losing interest is that there are two ball factions fighting against each other... in space. You pick one of the sides and declare war on the other. Which one, who cares?
Set the inane story aside, MadBalls is an average shooter with a few quirks that hold it back from being better than average. You're given control of a soldier ball that is armed with an arsenal of guns, mines, and grenades, and must fight through hordes of other little balls that are also armed to the teeth. Now, the catch here is that not all weapons are available right off the bat and must be unlocked by earning points from kills and other objectives, so you'll start with a basic pea shooter before obtaining the more powerful guns.
Oddly enough, for a ball, your character controls like a tank, with about the same feeling of playing Katamari Damacy, albeit with none of the charm. Along the way, you'll get access to special, unique powers that are available to the unit you pick, and through teleporters thrown about each level's checkpoints, you are able to switch between members of your unlocked battalion. Some powers are just plain awful, like a weak turbo boost, but soon, you'll unlock characters who can roll around like giant lava balls, crushing anything in their path.
[image2]MadBalls offers a story mode that can be played in both single player and co-op mode, on- or off-line, with the single player working like your standard boot camp for playing online against other players. Computer-controlled characters are often brainless and just charge right at you, and they get stuck in the geometry frequently. In fact, getting stuck and losing track of the action is something you'll get used to in Madballs, as the isometric camera angle does nothing to contribute to your line of sight. The game's level geometry tends to obscure your view of your character, and since the camera is fixed behind your little ball, you're likely to get nauseated following it along. This only gets worse in later levels that tend to squeeze you in tighter confines, not to mention the very first level which has you rolling under bridges that hide your character.
Once you jump online to play against other people, if you manage to find a game (I had a 10% success rate) you'll find MadBalls' main draw: the multiplayer game types. Among the obligatory modes like "free for all" and "capture the flag", there's an Avatar shooting mode where your Xbox Live avatar becomes a mad ball and fights against other avatars. But the best online mode, hands down, is Invasion, where each team takes a turn to build their portion of the map to prepare themselves for any incoming attacks.
Madballs in: Baboo Invasion's main problem is that it feels generic, even though the characters are so different than you would expect in a shooter. It plays just like any other online free-for-all deathmatch-style game, and due to its camera problems and overly dumb computer-controlled characters, it's bound to fall somewhere in the middle of the seemingly infinite line of online shooters available for Xbox Live, PSN, or PC. If you're still somehow interested in trying this out, be prepared to meet a practically deserted and hard to connect online community. In the end, the ball's in your court.