Review by SneakTheSnake
I can't recommend it.
I just couldn't find the fun factor for Pac-Man Pinball Advance. There's some fun in many of the Pac-Man spinoffs - Pac-Attack comes to mind - so I thought, if handled correctly, this pinball outing could finally get its due. However, it feels much like Mario Pinball Land: loose and largely unfocused.
The game attempts to emulate the feeling of pinball with two small tables. The tables feature the same bumpers, spinners and bonuses that one could easily associate with a real pinball table; if these were real pinball tables, I'd be stoked. There's one that feels heavily based on the hub world of Pac-Man World for the Playstation, and the other table is a haunted boardwalk. Each board, ostensibly, has a hierarchy of goals that become more complex as play goes on. However, these objectives were never made especially clear to me.
The goals and trappings marry Pac-Man and pinball well. There are dots to collect, Power Pellets to munch, the occasional ghost to chow down on and even the obligatory fruit to collect. Sounds like a match made in Heaven, especially seeing as Pac-Man is easily rendered as... a ball. However, the game quickly falls apart soon after starting play; as if the confusion about objectives weren't enough, the camera is zoomed in far too much on our happy little yellow dot-muncher. I can't see the whole board at any given time, which makes gauging hits very difficult. It's never really clear where I'm supposed to whack Pac-Man either. Not that it matters much in pinball unless you're trying to go for mastery, but I never even had a vague sense of what I was supposed to be doing except whacking the ball around.
The tutorials proved to be little help. Am I supposed to go for a high score quota? Will a boss appear if I light up all the lights? Is there a definitive end-point at all, or am I just supposed to play until I'm bored? If there's going to be a story in this game - something about all the denizens of Pac-Land going mixing, with Pac being tasked to find them - that implies that the boards have a definitive objective and endpoint. Can't find 'em here, though.
Pac-Man Pinball Advance boasts a decent graphical style, I suppose; it would look fine on a small screen. The pre-rendered sprites and backgrounds experience some color clash from time to time, and the menu isn't exactly pristine, but the game could do a little worse. The music samples are innocuous enough, but the ghost sounds and classic Pac-Man opening jingle happen far too often for my liking. The aural experience of this game began to grate.
Maybe it's not the GBA's fault, what with the small screen, but I feel I'd be hard-pressed to find a decent pinball title for this portable system. Sure, pinball is an approachable enough game for it to fit well on a handheld but, if it's not designed with care (so that, say, an entire board can fit on the screen at once) like Kirby's Pinball Land, I see little rhyme or reason to the game. I recommend that you skip this one.
Rating: 1.5 - Bad
Product Release: Pac-Man Pinball Advance (US, 05/02/05)
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