Review by SneakTheSnake

Reviewed: 11/07/05 | Updated: 12/01/05

One of the few instances where a Mario gameplay fusion does not work

When Mario parties, it's a blast. When he decides to go for a leisurely drive, it's multiplayer mayhem. If it's an experience-earning, team-building adventure with turn-based battles and innovation abound, he can do it like any pro. He plays tennis, golf, soccer, and baseball with the greatest of ease, and he is even a great dancer.

So why doesn't it work when he's smushed into a pinball? I mean, Sonic's done it. Twice, actually. Samus the famous bounty hunter has been fused into a rather natural-feeling pinball title, as well.

This, unfortunately is one of the most sloppily-handled games of the Mario series. Mario Pinball Land quietly slipped through the cracks of Nintendo's development team, and it's plainly obvious why this game was not granted any acclaim. Save for the good graphics and the actual pinball physics, this game does not have much at all.

Presentation isn't everything, but it can ease a gamer into a game's world. Proper introduction and assistance by sources in- or out-of-game can be very beneficial for helping the gamer understand the mechanics. Mario Pinball Land features none of this. A world is selected, Mario is smushed down, and is thrust into the world of pinball.

It seems that Bowser has created a device that can transform Mario into a small ball, and he must rescue Princess Peach in this disheveled state. Something like that. Mario must traverse through several themed worlds, completing small tasks to earn stars. These stars open special portals around the pinball boards and also gain access to new worlds altogether. Points are also racked up with consecutive bonuses.

This game is monotonous. Mario flips and bounces around the various boards, and while I do enjoy pinball games, most have more going on. Mario usually must hit a certain group of targets within a given time limit. Once the task is complete, Mario can then collect the star and move on.

However, some of the star's objectives can be very ambiguous. There are no menus or indicators of what Mario has to do when he enters a part of the board, so the player bounces and flips around until a creature comes out, or encounters a secret passageway, or something to that extent.

One of the major setbacks is that if a player accidentally slips between the flippers in the middle of an important task, the progress made is lost. If Mario has smacked seven of eight targets, and then falls off the board and comes back, all eight creatures are there in full form. This can be very frustrating, seeing as it is easy to fall between the flippers or even land onto a board above the one Mario is at.

Graphically, this game works quite well. Mario's ball sprite rolls around with an impressive fluidity, and the environments are quite pretty. Each character, from Mario to the bosses is fully modeled, which makes for a very pretty game. The environments, which represent various areas mainly from Super Mario 64, are also quite good, and the game looks quite good overall.

There are a few audio samples of Mario and Toad, and a few rather bland and uninteresting musical numbers, but nothing too memorable. The songs can just continually loop, which makes the experience rather boring.

This is one of the few Mario titles I can not completely recommend. It is a change of pace, but there are several better pinball games available.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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