Metroid Prime Pinball

"Pinball tables/ Gold and Silver/ Altars to the Master's plan!" -- "TV Studio", The Who

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Metroid Prime Pinball is best enjoyed like good chocolate: savored frequently, but in small doses. The more you play less of it, the better the game becomes. Eventually, you will play it so often and for such short bursts that you will strike a sweet, magical balance (around the seven minute mark) where you achieve a perfect increment of maximum exhilaration. Honestly, this is an awesome game. Just don't play too much of it at once.

As the title suggests, Metroid Prime Pinball is Metroid Prime as a pinball game. Samus acts as a copper-colored ball, bounced about by your flippers. You hit her, and she goes places, and, well, that's essentially the game. There is no plot--except that which you can infer from Metroid Prime--nor cutscenes, dialogue, or additional characters. While there are missions, such as shooting beetles, collecting artifacts, and blasting Metroids, they aren't the point of the game. Like any pinball title, Metroid Prime Pinball is an exercise in Zen, with the point being not to win but to experience.

There are two single-player modes to the game: multi and single. In multi mode, you start on one pinball table, but depending on the missions you complete or unlock, you can progress to others. In single mode, however, you are confined to a single table with the purpose of reaching some pre-set mission goal: achieve the high score; beat the boss in the shortest time; etc. As you defeat bosses in multi mode, additional tables are unlocked in single mode. This is a good thing too, since throughout the game, multi mode offers only two playable tables, the Tallon Overworld and the Pirate Frigate; to access exotic locales like the Phazon Mines, you have to play in multi mode without "˜dying' until you unlock a warp. Single mode offers you table variety without the worry of surviving until that warp appears.

Additionally, there is a wireless multiplayer mode, set in the Magmoor Caverns. The goal is simple: first person to 100,000 points wins. In terms of gameplay, the multiplayer mode is nothing exceptional, but it is here in versus mode that one of my life-long dreams has finally been achieved: finally, you can sic Metroids on people. I cannot express how gratifying this is; English lacks the proper adjectives. It's just that cool.

Just like in arcade pinball, individual matches are short; when you run out of balls, it's game over. No continues, no saves--just a mechanical, feminine voice informing you that your "Mission Failed". The multi mode game is short too, comprising of only five tables, three of which are boss fights. In any other type of game, the brief gameplay and the lack of save states would be fatal flaws, but in Metroid Prime Pinball, it's just part of the frenetic package.

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Metroid Prime Pinball is a beautiful game, arguably the best looking and best sounding on the DS to date. The tables are dynamic works of art, interlaced with twisting pipes and crawling with colorful enemies. In the Tallon Overworld, thunder rumbles and rain falls; in the Magmoor Caverns, lava burbles to the surface. These seem like minor irrelevancies, but when present on a screen as tall as my thumb, these simple details mimic an entire world of atmosphere. Even the music is top-notch; the songs are rock/metal remixes of the Metroid Prime score, and even though I heard the same five songs for hours, I never tired of them.

This is a game that could only have appeared on the DS, but not because of the touch feature. Since the action spans two screens, the game essentially recreates the length and feel of a real pinball table. One annoyance, though, was that the gap between the screens appeared to block out a substantial chunk of the pinball table, which hurt my eyes at first. Although I eventually adapted to the disconnect, I did develop a splitting headache the first few times I played for more than ten minutes.

There are other drawbacks to the gameplay and design worth mentioning. The tilt feature is, plainly put, worthless; moving the touch screen with your thumb does not tilt the table but rather nudges it gently--even apologetically--and in the end, does very little good. Also, you are unable to pull back your own pinball plunger, removing a certain amount of strategy from the game. However, the greatest irritation by far is the Rumble Pak feature, activated whenever Samus strikes an object; when triggered, the Rumble Pak does not rumble so much as shudder. Accompanying this eerie pulsation is a buzzing, plunking sound, reminiscent of a beetle flying repeatedly into a gong. Occasionally you will trip a ball lock, which activates a horrible palpitation in your palms, and with all the sound and fury, you will think the DS is trying to shatter your soul. Really, the only good thing about the Rumble Pak feature is that it can be turned off.

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These objections aside, Metroid Prime Pinball is about as good a pinball experience as you're going to get outside of an arcade. Unfortunately, this works against the game to some extent. In an arcade, you almost never tire of a particular pinball table, because rarely do you have enough quarters to thoroughly tax the game. On the DS, however, with infinite opportunities to play, the gameplay can grow grating and repetitive. The best cure for this is to take frequent breaks: if you play the game only in short bursts, you'll continue to find it fresh and engaging.

Ultimately, the title tells you everything: it's Metroid, it's pinball, and so what else do you need to know? That it's a beautiful and enjoyable game? That's understood when Samus is involved. That it can be repetitive? That's understood when pinball is involved. Metroid Prime Pinball offers no more and no less than its title promises, but if you enjoy the game simply for what it is, you might be surprised with just how much fun you have. For ten minutes.

[i]Metroid Prime Pinball[/i]
Official Site
Release Date: October 2005
Developer: Fuse Games
Publisher: Nintendo

Comments

Nice read. Always an idea to get the SO off my back when I want some time to myself and some BF2. I am curious however how you came up with the "magical balance (around the seven minute mark)" conclusion, was this a lot of trial and error? Do you have data to support your conclusions?

...but if you enjoy porn simply for what it is, you might be surprised with just how much fun you have. For ten minutes.

Fixed!

Great review, It's been on my "consider" list for awhile, but may get bumped a notch since I only play the DS on bus rides and bathroom breaks anyway.

Dream wrote:

Nice read. Always an idea to get the SO off my back when I want some time to myself and some BF2. I am curious however how you came up with the "magical balance (around the seven minute mark)" conclusion, was this a lot of trial and error? Do you have data to support your conclusions?

Lots of trial and error, my friend. I won't subject you to the differential equation I experimentally derived to support my claim Roughly, I'd say the ideal way to play Metroid Prime Pinball is to play for seven minutes, take a five minute breather, play for another seven minutes, take another five minute break, wash, rinse, repeat.

This is a game that could only have appeared on the DS, but not because of the touch feature.

Maybe I'm a filthy skimmer and missed it, but how does the touch feature work in this game?

[Edit:] Neeevermind, I just re-read it and it actually computed this time. I was up till 3 am playing Civ4 and haven't had my coffee yet. As you were.

I can't believe I'm wishing I had bought a DS over a PSP, thinking back to when the PSP first came out. Damn, it sounds like there are some really nice games for it. I'd love to get mario kart when it comes out (in a few weeks I think), but I have to justify to myself buying a second handheld when I rarely use the one I already have.

Nice review, btw, you certainly have a knack for it.

if ever you were intimidated by the impressive review Fly produced yesterday, no need... Excellent stuff!

Makes me wanna play a pinball game, on my trusted pc... Cause I ain't got no money for no DS

Thanks for the review. I'm more certain now that I'll own this game before too long. I've always enjoyed Pinbot and Black Knight in the arcade and to date haven't found a video pinball game that comes too close to my experiences with those classics. I'm hoping that this might capture a little of that magic.

I bought Star Trek pinball for the pc around '98 and that was decent, although the reviews weren't very stellar. I remember that it had a trailer for a great looking Star Trek game called, "The Secret of Vulcan Fury" that never did get released, but I digress.

By the way, I've enjoyed your Fry avatar. Have you ever considered a Zoidberg Jesus avatar?

Great review! I picked the game up a few days ago, and it's now my "Play during the commercials" game on the couch:)

A couple of things:
-While I like that there is a variety of "video game" style elements to the tables ('shoot the metroids with the ball, etc), I find myself wishing that they stayed truer to "real" pinball. One of my favorite games of all time is "Balls of Steel" on the pc...probably the best example of blending "real" pinball physics and the capabilities of a video game.

- Some of the tables (the boss battles) kind of disappointed me. They really aren't "tables", but play areas for the purpose of shooting at one thing.

- I kind of like the rumble pak:)

-Agree on the table nudging...it just doesn't work the way it should.

All that being said, I am thoroughly enjoying this game:)

-Fan

Propagandalf wrote:

but I have to justify to myself buying a second handheld when I rarely use the one I already have.

Maybe if your current one had any games worth playing?

Wow, it really does look gorgeous. I'm reminded of how much I loved Metroid Prime, and inspired enough that I think I might actually attempt to finish Echoes over the weekend.

If I had a DS, I'd definitely put this on my rental list. It seems like an ideal game to enjoy for a few days, then return.

Gud wrote:

By the way, I've enjoyed your Fry avatar. Have you ever considered a Zoidberg Jesus avatar?

I've seen a few Zoid Jesus pics that would work as an avatar, but I was never as big a fan of Zoidberg as I was of Fry. He's just Teh Greetest. (Plus, I like coffee). So I'll stick with this avatar, for now. Besides, I don't want to piss off the Sony Jesus.

Thanks for all the kind comments, everyone. It's always nice to hear good things about your work (rather than "What's a Jenova?" :))

Plus, Edwin used the Zoidberg Jesus avatar for a while. None of us wants to go there now.

Thanks for the excellent review, Katerin. Of late I have tried several times to convince myself to buy a DS. It's scary.

(rather than "What's a Jenova?"

Aren't those the guys that come to my door every sat morning?

Wow. I would have never thought one could type that many words about a simple little pinball game. Very fun read.

You diss on the Zoidberg? Now I must invoke the sacred ritual of Claw Plock! *click click clickclickclick*

I picked it up last night for my brand new DS. Great for commercials...or pretty much anything on TV when Lost isn't on.

Mixolyde wrote:

Great for commercials...or pretty much anything on TV when Lost isn't on.

Good for waiting for the map to load in CS:S or DoD:S. Or for waiting for your comp to boot up. Or at a long light. Or on the john.

KaterinLHC wrote:

One annoyance, though, was that the gap between the screens appeared to block out a substantial chunk of the pinball table, which hurt my eyes at first. Although I eventually adapted to the disconnect, I did develop a splitting headache the first few times I played for more than ten minutes.

That's very interesting.. Does this mean that a portion of the game board is actually obscured, meaning that the ball disappears off of both screens completely at some points in time? I would expect it to be annoying, but not painful.

It definitely seems like there is a slight gap in the playing field, where the ball is half on one, but not on the other. It's not too large, tho.

I just unlocked the two boss maps for single mission practice! woot!

Yoyoson wrote:
KaterinLHC wrote:

One annoyance, though, was that the gap between the screens appeared to block out a substantial chunk of the pinball table, which hurt my eyes at first. Although I eventually adapted to the disconnect, I did develop a splitting headache the first few times I played for more than ten minutes.

That's very interesting.. Does this mean that a portion of the game board is actually obscured, meaning that the ball disappears off of both screens completely at some points in time? I would expect it to be annoying, but not painful.

Yes, a portion of the game table is indeed obscured. But, scale-wise, it's not as large as you'd expect. So there's this strange disconnect there... and yes, it is visually painful, at least it was to me, in the same way that if you stare at Magic Eye pictures for too long, you get a headache. Maybe it wouldn't happen to everyone, but it certainly happened to me.

Aren't those the guys that come to my door every sat morning?

No, Ulairi, those are Jenova WITNESSES.

I just bought this game about 20 minutes ago and am really enjoying it. Although, the last digital pinball I played was the Pinball Fantasies series.

Damn that was about 10 years ago....

Anyway, very entertaining game.

I remember Pinbot for the NES and Kirby's Pinball for the GB way back when. I loved both, especially Kirby. These kinds of games are just straight-up fun, if you enjoy this sort of thing