Review: Metroid Prime Pinball
Posted 18 Jun 2007 at 01:02 by Conor Smyth
|"Ultimately, without the ambition topush either way, the final result is something resembling mediocrity."|
Like over-zealous farmers, Nintendo are no strangers to excessive milking. Mario has hadhis name branded on countless spinoffs, from edutainment to Tetris to drawing games, and more. 2004 saw credibility stretched further, with Mario Pinball Land on the GameBoy Adbance, a passable if bizarre twist on a familiar formula. Fuse Games return with Metroid Prime Pinball, a sort ofspiritual successor, passing the plunger and flipper baton to a peer for the handheld offspring.
Theoretically, the Metroid franchise is unsuited to the spinoff treatment. After all,the Mario brand embraces near universal values of fun and family, with iconographythat can be transfered to other genres without damage. Metroid is a serious spaceshooter, with a distinctively sharp tone and style: most Nintendo fans would be uncomfortable with any spinoff pillaging of its universe. So I'm hoping Metroid Pinball doesn't set a precedent, but for the time being, its gameplay relevance (Samusobviously spends a portion of her adventures in ball form anyway) and the sheerstrangeness of Metroid in pinball form, manages to initially assuage reservations.
Taking the seemingly polar worlds of space-adventure and tabeltop pinball, the gameopts for a medium between the two. The pinballing happens not in tables, but in sixlocations borrowed from the Prime games, modified with ball tracks, flippersand the rest of the pinball wardrobe. You hit tracks and bumpers for points, but boost them by destroying enemies and playing shooting mini-games. There are bosses,power-ups and progression is attained by collecting artifacts.
This amalgamation hits and misses. There does come an odd satisfaction with assaulting monsters with your high-speed flippers, and progressing to differentenvironments, tables and bosses is genuinely thrilling. The rumble pack and theshoulder buttons give the action a solid feel. Missiles, super bombs, gunning enemies and performing wall jumps in the middle of a pinball session isdelightfully incongruous and surprising, reminding you why Metroid pinball was a niftyidea in the first place, and providing compulsive playing on public transport.
But after time the marriage of the two formats starts to break. Only the anoraks find pinballtruly exciting, and so returning to flippers and ball shots after any blasting is a bit of a come down. It doesn't help that the tables themselves are designed more towards the Metroidside thanpinball, so when you're aimlessly whizzing about the table seeking more bountyaction it can get grating. And when the pinball intrudes rudely on the Metroid, likewhen spiteful fate sends your ball lifelessly falling down the choute at the bottomin the middle of a boss fight, forcing a restart, it's infuriating and unfair. Tighter and more complex tables would have made it a better pinball game, but, conversely, more dramatic andless frigid tables would've made it a better Metroid game. And a save option, thoughderailing the impulsive attraction of pinball, would've made reaching final bossesa less ardous journey. Ultimately, without the ambition topush either way, the final result is something resembling mediocrity.
And despite the neat Prime-style music, presentation and "missions", the game regularly reminds you that, it is, at heart, a pinball game, and not a terribly great one at that. How much you get out of it will depend on your affinity towards that genre. Metroid fanatics will get a kick out of its novelty for a few days, more on the WiFi, butpinball afficionados will walk away ultimately unsatisfied.
Truthfully, Metroid Prime Pinball rarely feels substantial and weighty enoughfor a full game. An interesting diversion, it is something you'd expect to find asa bonus on another disc, a fun side-project for the boys at Retro. It is a commendableidea, but is executed confusedly and superficially. One for the niches, unfortunately.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Mildly entertaining and diverting, but shallow and short-lived. Please Fuse, no Zelda pinball.
Novel gameplay combination
Rumble pak used solidly
Often dull table design
Contradictions in gameplay