First, a little history. When PlayBrains approached Microsoft to get their title, Babo: Invasion, published, it was a sequel to the freeware shooter BaboViolent 2. Microsoft liked the game, but had one question: could the characters be Madballs? PlayBrains looked at their game and thought, "Why not?", and got together with American Greetings to blend together their shooter with the forgotten franchise. Thankfully, although its parts might not be all that relevant in today's world, Madballs in Babo: Invasion manages to be an entertaining shooter, and a welcome addition to the Xbox Live Arcade.
Yes, the Madballs game is a shooter. Besides the characters being obviously inspired by the 80's toys, very little about the game has anything to do with Madballs. It's like Super Mario Bros. 2, where Nintendo inserted their characters into an already finished title. Granted, it would be pretty hard to build something around squishy rubber balls. Instead, the gameplay straps weapons to the rolling characters to make it a third-person run-and-gun bullet-fest.
Sporting a number of unique weapons and a Smash TV vibe, Madballs provides a good amount of quirky fun for a downloadable game. Weapons and new characters are unlocked in the singleplayer game, opening up the ability to use them in online multiplayer. The game provides players with a surprisingly long singleplayer campaign, though the story isn't really worth following. It's mainly a tool to teach players the rules of the game and slowly drip new characters and weapons into their arsenal. Alternate characters are the only time where Madballs come into play, and each disgusting sphere comes with its own unique ability. These abilities range from healing powers to speed bursts, working their way into the gameplay by giving different approaches to each small combat arena.
Helping raise the value even higher is multiplayer, coming in an assortment of different modes, including a cooperative version of the before mentioned singleplayer campaign. Beyond that, large deathmatch games using the unlocked characters and weapons are a highlight, as well as being able to replace the out-of-place Madballs with Xbox Live Avatars. This fits well, showing great use of the otherwise underutilized characatures. Hindering the play is lag, which currently means that even games with good connection have issues with spikes, meaning it's sadly common for the fluid rolling of the Madballs to look more like a rock being skipped accross a pond. It's possible to find an occasional diamond in the rough, though, and it really does show great potential.
All in all, there's a good amount of entertainment to be had in Madballs in Babo: Invasion. It's a meaty package, providing a lengthy singleplayer portion and a multiplayer that, if tweaked a bit, should provide a wealth of replayability. It might be easy to dismiss it based on the name alone, since most people don't associate Madballs with anything of quality. This would be a mistake. It's surprisingly fun and quick, leaving no reason not to grab Madballs during the otherwise desolate summer months.