Roll Samus into her ball and throw her into a pinball machine; it sounds simple enough. Though the concept itself is quite simple, Metroid Prime Pinball is much more. Developed by Fuse Games, previously know for Mario Pinball Land for the Gameboy Advance, Metroid Prime Pinball combines the complex Metroid universe with the common pinball table and creates an extremely original and enjoyable DS title.
Fuse makes a highly commendable attempt to squeeze a condensed version of the Metroid Prime storyline into this game. There is a “storyline” based mode in this game, if you will, as the Multi-Mission mode does have an actual “end”. In order to progress through these multiple missions, you need to collect artifacts by completing various requirements and goals in each setting. These goals and missions can be activated by triggering various switches on the board or by reaching various score benchmarks. The goals may be as simple as hitting a specific target on the board or by defeating a huge boss that tries to destroy your ball. Once you acquire 12 artifacts, you will unlock additional tables which contain more complex goals. Once you work your way up to the final table, you will be faced with the games ultimate boss: Metroid Prime.
The game, at heart, is a pinball game. The core of the gameplay is based around the manipulation of Samus through various rails and tracks using 2 to 4 flippers placed at various points throughout the table. Simple enough. The game offers much more than that though, as Fuse has integrated numerous aspects of the Metroid series into the game to give it a lot more depth. The tables vary in theme and are riddled with the likes of Space Pirates, Shriekbats, Beetles, and of course, Metroids, as well as numerous other enemies.
The inclusion of these enemies throughout the table also means that you have to worry about more than just stopping your pinball from falling between the flippers at the bottom, as Samus can only tolerate a set amount of damage from these enemies before her energy is depleted and Samus is destroyed. You will find yourself utilizing many of the weapons that you have become accustomed to throughout the Metroid series to keep this from happening. You will find yourself utilizing missiles, bombs, power bombs, and Samus’ trusty arm cannon at various points throughout the game. Though the use of these elements in the pinball setting seems odd at first, once you become accustomed to the integration of the various abilities, you will find that they blend perfectly into the pinball world. The touch screen is utilized as you would expect within the pinball world: for tilting. Though I find that the feature is rarely used, you can tilt the machine without penalty by rubbing your finger on the bottom screen. The game is also packed with the DS rumble pack. Personally, I found the rumble pack to be a nice touch, but it got annoying quickly. I found myself bothered by the sound that the pack made and it got annoying very quickly. The sound seemed to overcome the effect of the pack and it ended up being its own worst enemy.
This is definitely a beautiful game. The tables provide a wide variety of settings which all resemble the locals that we saw throughout Metroid Prime. There is a nice assortment of environment effects across the various tables as well as a nice integration of 3D “cut-scenes” at certain points. Everything moves smoothly and the animations are top notch. The tables give you a good sense of depth, as you really feel that you are playing on more than just a 2-dimensional field. Another nice feature is that the tables are spread across both screens, eliminating the need for a scrolling screen. This is definitely a nice departure from previous pinball games as you now have the ability to see entire tables and can plan and strategize a little better. The developers were also clever enough to incorporate a delay as the ball passes between the top and bottom screens. There is a small space there that is acknowledged, the space between the screens is taken into account when the ball passes between them. It is the attention to these sorts of details that helps make this game excel.
Metroid Prime Pinball has a solid, rocking score. What you are going to hear is a hard rocking soundtrack that pushes the action and feel of the game. You get all of the usual creature sounds from the Metroid universe mixed well with all of the usual pinball table sounds. There is an announcer to announce various milestones such as Extra Ball, Multi Ball, etc. who speaks in a very crisp and clear voice. The sound quality is top notch for a handheld game.
What can I say? Metroid Prime Pinball is a great game. It provides a good blend of old school pinball game play with new school graphics and sound. The end result is an absolutely top notch game. There is a slight learning curve before you understand all of the control functions that are available to you, but it is all worth it in the end. I found myself discovering new aspects and features of the game weeks after I first played it. Within the first few weeks, I was only racking up scores of 1 to 2 million, but now I am racking up 15 plus per game. The game evolves even more as you play it and learn how to use everything that it offers you. While I would have liked to see the game launch at a slightly lower price, I definitely do not regret this purchase.
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