Review by GavLuvsGA
Deserves much more credit than it gets
I'm not exactly great at pinball games. I bought Sonic Pinball Party and didn't get close to finishing it, and then a few weeks ago, I blind bought this for £12.99. It's a long story, which isn't worth going into. I was surprised at how negative some of the reviews for this were, especially after playing the game myself and actually finding it reasonably enjoyable.
Gameplay - 6.5/10
The gameplay's not great, but it's not bad either. It seems something like Super Mario 64, except that it takes place on Pinball Tables. A lot of the time this game does seem rather small, but a lot of the places have a large number of secret areas that you have to search for.
The gmae is divided into various pinball boards, which you can traverse betwee using cannons. When on the boards, you have to stop Mario falling off (as you probably guessed) by using the flippers. If Mario falls, he will either fall to the next table down, or lose a life. To help you, there's a pipe that temporarily appears in the "gutter", but it eventually vanishes. However, even with the pipe in place, Mario seems to often be able to squeeze through remarkably easily.
On virtually every board, you can get stars - mainly by killing every enemy on the screen, and it's not quite as dull and repetitive as it sounds, as various enemies require different strategies to kill. For example, on one room you must kill a bunch of snakes before they slither through a drain in the middle of the screen. Also, a lot of the boards ase their three dimensionality to their advantage - such as using a pyramid in order to get high enough to bump off some vultures.
You also get various special items - mushrooms to make you shrink or grow, and Yoshi eggs to help you access special areas, which are very fun. You mainly buy these from Toad in exchange for coins, which you get from killing enemies.
One thing that might take a lot of getting used to is the fact that the boards reset themselves when you fall off them, so you're going to have to start killing every enemy again in order to get the stars that you are after, and sometimes it can get annoying - usually around the time that you've almost completed a screen and Mario worms his way past the pipe at the bottom, or when you mess up when you've just accessed an area you were having trouble reaching.
Navigation around the place can be a bit of a nuisance. You can get between the areas with cannons, but these will usually only appear once certain conditions are met, so if you go to an area without a cannon, you stay there until you either open the cannon or get game over. You mainly get through the areas by going through star doors - which open if you have enough stars. As with most pinball games, you'll often find Mario going everywhere but where you actually want him to go. All star doors open on contact, but you have to flip Mario through them again to get past them, but for some reason they close up if every single on in a table opens (if there is more than one) or you enter the cannon (which you will often do by accident). There's one board I've found with an ice hole that you can open, which becomes very tricky to dodge to get to the other doors located off the board.
It's not all annoyance, though. The bosses are of reasonable difficulty, despite involving a lot of luck and trial and error rather than actual skill (but I guess that's usually the way with pinball games), and there are some fun boards to explore. I rather enjoy the pyramid area of the egyptian section where you trigger buttons to open the different rooms in order to get various stars and access the boss. Other interesting diversions in the game include the red coin challenges, another favourite from Super Mario 64.
Overall, how enjoyable gameplay is depends on how much you enjoy (or are skilled at) pinball. Experts will say this is too easy, while people who aren't terribly good may give up in sheer frustration at getting a game over after about half a minute of playing, but the game is worth sticking with (although I would have liked to have had more than just three lives to work with). This game does seem a little short, but you may take a while if you're actually trying to get all the rewards.
Story - 3/10
The old Mario cliche - Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser after going into a pinball world. Mario should put her on a leash - or something. Mario has to (once again) go after Peach and save her. Please, Mario - teach Peach some self defence next time so she doesn't get captured so easily.
Graphics - 9/10
I personally think the graphics are excellent. Most of the Gameboy Advance's attempts at 3D graphics are shoddy to say the least, but they actually made an effort here. The only downsides I could see where that Mario looks downright weird when in his ball form, and he often seems a bit too small even when at normal size. The enemies in the game are often small, but nicely animated all the same.
Sound - 8/10
Plenty of nice, catchy tunes (I love the music to the ice world; I went to bed with it going around in my head a few nights ago). The only downside I found was Toad's horrible, horrible voice.
Play Time/Replay Value - 7/10
How long you take on this depends entirely on your skill. If you're really good, you'll probably wipe the floor with this game in no time at all. If you're not good at pinball, then you could take some time actually doing everything.
If you're not vastly fond of pinball, or you're just not a fan of Mario, then rent this. If you liked Sonic Spinball and Sonic Pinball Party, you'll probably love it and I'd recommend buying - if it's being sold at a reasonable price. I actually think this game is very underrated.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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