OK, the first question you’re going to ask about Metroid Prime Pinball is: “$35 for a pinball game? Is it worth it?” Well that’s a hard question to answer, depending on how much of a pinball junkie you are. But this is a fun little game, filled with typical Nintendo arcade antics. And, in much the same style as the Mario Sports titles, the “sport” is set in a Nintendo-based universe. In other words, you’ve got Samus Pinball.
First you’ll notice a Rumble Pack is included, which gives the game the type of feel you’d expect from a real, live pinball machine. You’ll feel it when the ball hits the bumpers or falls back thru the exit hole. Although it’s nothing Earth-shattering as far as gameplay mechanics or immersion, it’s definitely a nice touch. And, to partially answer the question above, maybe it is included to help you feel better about spending $35 on a pinball game.
And everyone knows what pinball is, right? Then what can Nintendo possibly do to impart its own take on the genre? For starters, the DS is tailor-made for pinball with its two screens. The game uses the lower screen for the lower part of the table, and the flipped-up screen for the upper portion of the table, which means there is no scrolling. Second, the rumble pack inclusion gives Metroid Prime Pinball that busy, noisy, electro-mechanical feel from pinball games in the arcade.
Third, and perhaps most important, is the Metroid universe. By all accounts, Samus’ world is faithfully recreated in a pinball game. As someone who just played Metroid Prime, I instantly felt at home. The ball is Samus in morph-ball mode, and while rolling around, you can drop bombs just as in Metroid Prime. At various points you’ll also find yourself dropping a power bomb or standing up to fire missiles and lasers.
Moves aside, many of the creatures in the Metroid universe are also here, from Metroids to Shriekbats. Most of these creatures appear when you enter the hologram and activate what is essentially a mini-game. These mini-games (within the context of the pinball game, mind you) range from eliminating three Metroids in Power-Ball mode to eliminating shriek bats with lasers in Combat-Ready mode, even an off-the-table wall-jumping game. Once you successfully complete these games, you acquire an artifact. Acquire enough artifacts and activate the right hologram, and you’ll eventually have the chance to move to a different table, be it one of the boss-battle tables or one of the two main tables.
Eliminating bosses or further completing the mini-games yields more artifacts and more points. Eventually, if you’re successful enough, you’ll enter the temple table, where you’ll have the chance to place all the artifacts you’ve collected. If you place all 12 artifacts in the temple, you beat the game’s multi-mission (campaign) mode and unlock Expert Mode. I’ve played this game many times in the past three weeks, but I’ve only beaten it once. And that was on the second or third day. Somehow I just got on a roll, but since then, I haven’t come close. Once you beat the game you also unlock the various boss tables and the temple table for single-mission mode, which lets you play for a high score on one ball, or the highest score you can get in a certain amount of time.
While the gameplay is fun, it’s the nice little touches that you’d expect in a pinball game that really seal the deal in Metroid Prime Pinball. You hit certain flashing lights or flick the ball onto the right rail for various point bonuses. If you put Samus in the right spot you’ll get a free spin, which can give you anything from an extra ball to a force field to big points. Both main tables have a way to enter a multi-ball mode where you play with three balls at once.
But most important, at least as far as little touches go, is that you can tilt the table. Yes, you can rub your finger left or right or up and down on the touchscreen to tilt the table. It’s kind of neat how the table moves when you do this, but it definitely requires a bit of practice to do this right. It doesn’t appear that any amount of tilting causes the game to stop, making it a good technique for racking up points, but you still have to be quick with your thumb to tilt when needed. A couple times I was able to rescue my ball, but most of the time I was just too slow to react as the ball moves fast.
The game also has a multiplayer mode that involves being the first one to score a set number of points with various options affecting what’s happening on the other players’ tables. If you have a friend with a DS, this could make for some good fun.
And that, really is what Metroid Prime Pinball is: a fun pick-up-and-play game. There’s some killer game design, but because there are only two main tables and six simpler ones, you’re not getting a lot of pinball variety for $35. But, what is included is fantastic, so if you’re a pinball or Metroid fan you’ll probably want to check this out. Plus, the rumble pack will eventually be used for new DS games, so in the end there’s no question as to how fun Metroid Prime Pinball is, it’s more of a question of whether you’ll be satisfied with paying $35 for what’s included. And in this reviewer’s opinion, you definitely should be.
- Gameplay: 9
- A fun take on pinball, with great little mini-games.
- Graphics: 8
- Nicely detailed pinball tables and effects.
- Sound: 8
- Metroid theme music and sound effects, as well as some classic pinball sounds.
- Replay: 7
- A bit light on content, but multiplayer should satisfy clans of DS owners.
- Overall: 8.5
- The marriage of pinball and Metroid is a match made in heaven. This is a perfect game to play for 20 minutes at a time.
— Chris Karalus