Developer: Fuse Games Limited
# of Players: 1
N Amer - 10/04/2004
Mario Pinball Land Review
And a number of friendly faces. Hey, didn’t I see you at Luigi’s Halloween party in 2001?
That’s about all the screenshots say. They don’t reveal anything concrete about the gameplay other than the presumption that you play as a ball-shaped Mario, and your only two control mechanisms are left and right paddles. What is Mario Pinball Land really about? Is it Pokemon Pinball with a Mushroom Kingdom twist? Or is it like Sonic Spinball, featuring weird platform elements? Let us shrink, deform and reshape to discover what makes this game spin.
You ain’t got nothin’ on me, Liquid Plumber!
Mario Pinball Land is exactly what the title states: it’s a pinball game set in a Mario “land.” Every area is based on or at the very least inspired by the worlds of the previous Mario games (Super Mario Bros., Mario World, Mario 64, etc.). This game has a haunted mansion; a puzzling pyramid; a slippery ice world; and a grassy stage that’s loosely based on the environments of Mario Sunshine. Racking up points is important, but the real goal is to defeat each world’s boss and acquire four special keys. These keys unlock the castle to everyone’s favorite Princess-snatcher – Bowser!
You’ll be taken back a couple decades when you see these stages for the first time. I’m one of the biggest Mario fans on the planet, so it was a real treat to see all of the characters redesigned for a pinball universe.
Stages are short but deep. No stage can exceed the size of the Game Boy Advance’s screen, but the developers crammed quite a bit of depth into that tiny amount of space.
Take a good look at this screen. Your eyes go right to the center of the picture where the pyramid lies. When you enter this stage the pyramid isn’t even there! You have to bounce Mario around and hit the statues on the left and right side of the screen in order to make the pyramid rise above the sand. Skillful gamers should notice that before the pyramid has fully risen, Mario can roll up the side of it and jump off with ease. Four annoying birds circle the area, and while they could be there for decorative purposes only, wouldn’t it be cool if you could hit them? Remember, in this game Mario is a pinball. Flip him like one and hit the four Klepto birds.
Doing this gets you a star. Yep, you’re in Mario Heaven. Coins (red, blue and yellow), mushrooms and other priceless items are a part of this adventure. Shy Guys sneak around like Solid Snake; Koopas fall on their butts when you hit them; and Goombas do exactly what they do in every other Mario game – nothing! They just run around and hop very lightly. I love ‘em though. I love all of these enemies-turned-pinball-objects. The cactus critters (called “Pokey”) from Mario World/Mario 64 make an appearance, as do the lovable penguins from Mario 64.
When you choose to enter the pyramid (or accidentally flip Mario inside prematurely), you’ll discover that the next stage has two separate paths, both of which lead to even more paths. This leads to lots of backtracking, careful flipping, and more attention to detail than you’d normally give to a pinball game.
Backtracking isn’t a problem, though it’s not always allowed. You can’t come and go as you please. Once inside a world you may let Mario fall between the paddles to backtrack through the various stages. But if you fall through the paddles on the beginning stage of a world, kiss your extra lives – I mean extra balls – goodbye.
To move freely from world to world, work your butt off and defeat each boss. Winning boss battles gives you keys and unlocks an exit point, letting you come and go whenever you please.
The piranha plant is a hungry beast.
Goombas and Koopas are guaranteed to leave coins behind, but you can also hit question mark boxes and stationary objects to boost your earnings. Coins can then be exchanged for special items, similar to Mario RPG, though without the extensive options. There are classic items, like red mushrooms that double Mario’s size (in this case he becomes a bigger, more menacing ball), and green mushrooms that give extra balls. Then there’s the lightning bolt, which was taken from Mario Kart and damages all enemies in the area. The pipe power-up is a new item that other Mario games used as a level entry and exit point. In this game the pipe temporarily blocks the gap between the paddles, lessening your chances of falling in.
Mario Pinball Land isn’t a long game, but it isn’t an easy one either. You could beat in a day, but it’s unlikely that you’d unlock each and every secret. Even if you did, there’s no reason to take your game back to the store and demand a refund. The replay value is just high enough to ensure that you never, ever want to part with it.
Review Scoring Details for Mario Pinball Land
The coolest pinball video game since…no wait, this IS the coolest pinball video game! Enter this land of Goombas and Koopas and guys who are shy. Take on Bowser in an entirely new way. Collect eight red coins to reveal additional stars; collect several blue coins to take on three Bomb-om and Bullet Bill stages. If you’re not careful you might even run into a big bad Boo. A bumbling bee may try to sting the spherical plumber, but in the end I know you will prevail. There’s no evil a red mushroom can’t defeat.
Technologically, Mario Pinball Land’s graphic effects are not that advanced, but I love ‘em anyway. Mario and the gang are fully-rendered (presumably sprites). Their animations are trademark to the series. The bold-looking backgrounds have an almost CG-like appearance, something rarely seen on the Game Boy Advance.
Some decent tunes can be heard, but where’s all the classic Mario music? Where are all the themes from Mario World and Mario 64? At least the sound effects are true to the series.
Not too difficult, not too easy. Mario Pinball Land is challenging enough to make every Mario fan smile upon completing each task.
Excellent use of Mario characters, items and environments. The gameplay puts a new spin on the genre.
It’s not like Sonic Spinball. It doesn’t play anything like Pinball of the Dead, nor does it have anything in common with the Pokemon pinball games. And that’s exactly why I love it. Mario Pinball Land is the first pinball game that plays like its adventurous predecessor. The coin collecting, boss-battling, I-can’t-stop-playing-till-I-win gameplay is guaranteed to please every Mario fan. I should know – I’m not just the president of the Mario Club for Men. I’m also a client.
Mario Pinball Land puts a new “spin” on the genre.
Reviewer: Louis Bedigian
Review Date: 10/02/2004