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Babylonian Twins

For: iPhone   Also on: Android
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Well-preserved artefact

Product: Babylonian Twins | Developer: Cosmos Interactive | Format: iPhone | Genre: Platform, Retro | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Babylonian Twins iPhone, thumbnail 1
In an alternate universe, computer manufacturer Commodore didn’t go bankrupt in 1994. It found new investment and developed a string of successful consoles that took the fight to Japanese giants Sega and Nintendo.

Fantastical stuff indeed, but there’s a sizable portion of 30-somethings around these parts who, among the unwelcome daily responsibilities that age brings, have no doubt stolen themselves a few moments to indulge in similar daydreams.

The reason for this is the Amiga, a brilliant home computer that – in the late '80s and early '90s – brought 16-bit gaming to a generation of western Europeans. It never really took off in America, but games like Babylonian Twins should make you chaps across the pond slightly peeved.

Once upon a time in Iraq

In 1993 Iraqi student Rabah Shihab was wishing things were different, too. Video games at the time had a nasty tendency of portraying his country as an uncivilised wilderness fit for little more than bombing (sadly, not much has changed).

Using a trusty Amiga 500, Rabah and his team set to work making a game that would cast Iraq in a better, more informed light. Babylonian Twins was the outcome, a hugely promising platform puzzler set in the influential ancient city.

Sadly, the full game never saw the light of day.

Now, some 16 years later, it’s been resurrected, revamped, and enhanced for iPhone and iPod touch. This is no dusty relic, though, but a beautifully restored example of how games used to be – with all the advantages and annoyances that entails.

Blast from the past

You take control of Babylonian princes Nasir and Blasir, alternating control to make use of their unique abilities. While both can move, jump, and attack using virtual controls, you need to use Blasir’s superior athleticism to reach certain heights and Nasir’s strength to smash collectible-containing vases.

Additionally, Blasir has a handy dash move that allows him to smash through weak walls, while Nasir can do something similar with weak floors. You need both to collect all four of the icons that unlock each level’s exit.

The level design really shines in Babylonian Twins. These are sprawling, multi-layered affairs that require an orderly, methodical approach to completion. Make no mistake, this is a hefty challenge.

Part of this stems from the sort of old skool paradigm that has all but been eradicated. There are no checkpoints here and you’re limited to only three lives. Run out and it’s back to the start of the level – which, given their size, can be quite frustrating.

Babylon has fallen

Babylonian Twins’s slick gameplay will keep bringing you back for more, but it requires a period of adjustment. The speed at which it moves reflects the time in which it was first conceived: twitch reactions were a major factor in most game genres.

Nowadays it seems to sit at odds with the exploratory nature of the game and it’s not helped by slightly over-sensitive platform mechanics.

It’s all very well requiring pixel-perfect jumps and offering up enemies who continue to pester you (even Blasir’s sword will only stun guards for a few moments), but when it’s so easy to overshoot your intended mark – no doubt compounded by the limitations of touch control – it will probably cause more untimely deaths than you can bear.

Babylonian Twins isn’t for the casual gamer. It’s not for people whose only time spent gaming consists of a quick blast on Flight Control on the way to work. It’s for true gamers who thrive on a challenge.

That’s not to say that Babylonian Twins is a relic, likely to appeal only to those of a certain age who were around to bemoan the lack of a release the first time around. Its mechanics and revamped style hold up beautifully against any number of iPhone alternatives, and should find an audience among discerning younger gamers.

After 16 years in the wilderness, it certainly deserves to.
Babylonian Twins
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 14 April 2010
Charming and demanding in equal measure, Babylonian Twins shrugs off one or two outdated design mechanics to remind us what was so good about 16-bit gaming
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