RELEASED: August 2004
AVAILABLE ON: GBA
DEVELOPER(S): Fuse Games
The first proper, coin-operated pinball game was Baffle Ball. It was created by David Gottlieb, and released in 1931. To this day, there have been hundreds of different pinball games of different genres. The first proper, coin-operated Mario game was Donkey Kong. It was created by Shigeru Miyamoto and Gunpei Yokoi, and released in 1981. To this day, there have been dozens of different Mario games of different genres. In 1984, Mario and pinball crossed over for the first time in an NES game simply called Pinball, which was based on an arcade game created by Nintendo a year prior. 20 years later, some crazy yahoo figured they should do a REAL Mario pinball game, with Goombas and Piranha Plants and Bowser, and so on. Mario Pinball Land happened, and it was a tragedy.
What is the most frustrating form of pinball? Pinball with a plot.
Mario, Peach and friends visit a funfair which has a life-size pinball machine as its main attraction. Unbeknownst to the eager Peach, this machine is operated by Bowser's minions. As soon as Peach gets into the machine, Goombas shoot her right through Bowser's front door. It's once again up to Mario to get into the machine and make his way into Bowser's castle, only this time he needs to follow the very thin rulebook of slapstick pinball.
Pinball. What a form of gaming. I was a pinball freak as a kid. Whenever I happened to visit a café, gas station, or one of the many bars my stepdad favoured, or any other place that had some arcade action in it, I scouted the area for pinball machines. I was by no means a pinball wizard, but I loved the games. I loved the sound effects, I loved the increasingly complex and neat design of the tables, and if the table was based on something I really, really liked, like Jurassic Park, I could honestly play it for hours, or as long as my mom or stepdad had quarters left to share. My passion for pinball somewhat died after they started making pinball video games, more than just Pinball for the NES. Of course they sucked, they were nowhere near the thrills of real pinball, but back then, I was simple-minded and I loved them because I shined at them, something I could never do in real pinball. Why? Because pinball is UNFAIR! It's frustrating, annoying and unfair. ...And, insanely addictive.
When I heard of a game called Mario Pinball Land, my mind was filled with thoughts of Digital Illusions' Pinball series from the 90's - initially decent games that had crappy, unrealistic dynamics, and therefore they ultimately proved that pinball wasn't meant to be enjoyed at home in a digital form. Then, my thoughts carried on to ZEN Pinball, a very popular, downloadable PlayStation 3 title. That game is as close to real pinball as a digital game can get. It has extremely realistic dynamics and physics, and it is just as addictive as a real, frustrating, annoying and unfair pinball game. Mario Pinball Land came out years before, but the thing is that it's a Mario game. Whenever there's Mario, there's got to be some quality - there are exceptions, but this game was produced by Miyamoto. So, I gave it a shot, knowing nothing of the game except for its name. I believe you are familiar with the term "facepalm".
|Gone are the days when all we needed was |
a good bounce...
The graphics are very good, and so is the sound. Charles Martinet's Mario isn't as loud as usual, and the music is awesome at best! I love the boss theme. Something about the whole thing - as an audiovisual performance - tells me that Nintendo had virtually nothing to do with the game, except for production duty. Something's off, and then again, something's on that usually isn't. Either way, I have nothing to complain about when it comes to audiovisuals... but...
...Playing the game is like sticking a 12-inch needle in your eye, slowly. If you play it for too long, you'll actually be doing that. I'm sure that each and every one of you has played pinball in some form, so I don't need to explain the basics of the form. Mario is the ball, and you need to use the flippers of the pinball to keep him within the confines of a tight, narrow playfield. Everything that Mario hits grants you points, coins or special items, or a passageway to the next area. Or, a bonus game. You have to move forward, all the time. Sometimes, you need to gather a number of stars to get through numbered doors, just like in Super Mario 64. Those stars can be anywhere, even in areas you already cleared. If you think that's the most frustrating part of the game, I'm sorry to say you're wrong. Anyway, there's an occasional boss fight, in which you need to hit the boss for a set number of times, and like I said, a few different bonus games. There are five different worlds in the game. Your ultimate goal - surprise, surprise - is to defeat Bowser as your little pinball of flesh, and save your pretty-in-pink love muffin.
|Chomps on the loose.|
First, I was willing to forgive Mario Pinball Land for its awful dynamics. It came to me as no surprise at all that playing the game is nowhere near how a pinball game really works from a purely physical standpoint. You can try to rely on your magnificent skills in pinball, but they do you close to no good. Mario goes where he wants to, and if he wants to fall between the flippers like a floppy dick in the middle of the most amazing momentum, he does it, no matter if he's in the position to fall straight down in the first place or not. You think to yourself, that since this is a game with a plot, you've collected all kinds of essential stuff and clashed through a million areas already, that the game would cut you some slack, that there would be a checkpoint. Think again. Lose all your "balls", fail the level, it's to the very beginning with you. A single level must be cleared in three tries, assuming you're not lucky enough to get a 1-Up or two! Thinking how much Mario enjoys his stay off the playfield and the time it can take you to hit a certain target in a certain spot to proceed in each screen, one level will probably be enough to open your eyes to the fact: Mario Pinball Land is not a good game, and it's much more frustrating and annoying than any pinball game in any form ever was. Of course Mario Pinball Land is challenging, but it is not interesting. Some critic said it's hard to put down; I find putting it down extremely easy.
Mario Pinball Land doesn't meet any standards it's expected to meet. Entertaining pinball? It's not pinball by a long shot, the only thing the two have in common is that they're annoying - only pinball's an addictive nuisance! A good Mario game? Please. A good handheld game? Hey, think of all the good handheld games released under Mario's name through the years. The concept of the game is strange to the point of being fascinating, but Mario Pinball Land is not a good play.
GRAPHICS : 8.5
SOUND : 8.5
PLAYABILITY : 4.7
LIFESPAN : 4.5
CONCLUSION : 4.7
SOUND : 8.5
PLAYABILITY : 4.7
LIFESPAN : 4.5
CONCLUSION : 4.7
a.k.a. Super Mario Ball (JAP/EU)