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He's been a carpenter, a plumber, an adventurer, a doctor, a villain, golfer, tennis player, racer, and a fighter. So naturally, Mario would have to be in a video pinball game sooner or later. Actually this isn't Mario's first pinball game technically. Actual Mario pinball tables were made by Gottlieb about ten or so years ago.
Mario and Princess Peach are enjoying a lovely day at the fair in Mushroom Kingdom. Toad shows off a new device that turns you into a ball and blasts you out of a cannon without any harm. When Princess Peach tries it, a wily group of Goombas sneak past and aim the cannon toward Bowser's Castle! Instead of just walking to the castle, Mario decides to turn himself into a ball and launch into a series of pinball worlds on a quest to save the Princess!
There are five worlds that Mario can blast to. A grass land, ice land, desert, fun fair, and Bowser's Castle. Each world has several single screen pinball tables. Most tables have a ramp blocked by a door with a star number on it. Collect that many stars and you can go up the ramp and onto another table. There's a star to earn on every table, and you usually earn that star by hitting all the moving targets on the field (like Goombas, Shy Guys, etc.). Each world has a boss to fight (again, just whack it a few times with the ball), and defeating them gives you keys to open the gate to Bowser's Castle! Find cannons to warp between the worlds. You can also buy and find power-ups that you can activate with the B button. Mushrooms can make your Mario ball grow to make hitting targets easier, Poison Mushrooms make your ball shrink to fit into small holes, Yoshi eggs act as multiple balls, pipes are like ball savers, etc.
Mario Pinball Land may remind older gamers of classic video pinball titles like Pinball Quest (NES), or Kirby's Pinball Land (Game Boy). But unfortunately, Mario's game is nowhere near as fun as those titles. The reason lies in the ball physics…or lack thereof, in Mario Pinball Land. Most video pinball games try to simulate the physics of a real pinball table. Pinball experts can use the flippers to hit the ball at a certain angle and at a given strength to make the ball go where they want it to. But not in Mario Pinball Land! The ball can go anywhere unpredictably, no matter how you hit it with the flippers. And there's no tilt button either! The horrible ball physics are annoying because you are required to hit moving targets to get stars, and if you accidentally send the ball up a ramp or to Toad's shop or anywhere else where you leave that one table, all the targets and requirements to get that table's star reset. You'll have to do it all over again. This makes Mario Pinball Land more frustrating than fun.
The best part of Mario Pinball Land is the graphics. Large, well-animated rendered characters fill the screen, making it easy to forget you're actually playing a Game Boy Advance. Music is cheerful and bouncy, but lacks any familiar Mario tunes, surprisingly. Aside from the bad play control, the only other problem with Mario Pinball Land is that it is very short. You can beat the game in less than a couple of hours, and while getting all the stars, red coin challenges, and time attacks to improve your score are there for after you beat the game, there's not a whole lot else to encourage you to keep playing. In a sea of AAA Mario titles, one stinker is bound to show up now and again. Skip this and get a REAL pinball game like Pokemon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire.
Kids and kids at heart will love the bright, vivid graphics, Mario characters, and simple pinball gameplay. Younger gamers may not mind the messed up ball physics, but older gamers will probably find Mario Pinball Land frustrating.
Reviewer Recommended Ages: 6+
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Developer: Fuse Games
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