Nintendo DS Review: Metroid Prime Pinball

One of those unintended side effects for character designers is the spin-off. In the case of characters that roll into a ball, they'll end up in a pinball game eventually if they're popular. That brings us up to Metroid Prime Pinball, an unexpected surprise from Nintendo that shouldn't work on a gameplay level or be fun. Since initial thoughts are usually wrong, Prime Pinball manages to debunk both theories.

Launching with the rather pointless DS rumble pack, this oddball Metroid entry has the player pushing Samus around a small variety of playfields in a quest for artifacts. Typical and expected pinball norms apply like bumpers, multi-balls, and scoring multipliers. High scores can be achieved in either of the games basic modes. The adventure mode allows for travel between tables while the other sticks the players on a single dual-screened stage to keep racking up points.

Slapping the Metroid name on this wouldn't have been enough of course. Samus earns her powers as always. Stages contain classic power-ups like her bomb or missiles. Explosives do play a role here even though its pinball. Boss encounters fill the stages as do various aliens looking to bump Samus down between the flippers.

Maneuvering Samus is critical. Each table offers a variety of hazards, so there's a lot of strategy used instead of just hitting the flippers and hoping for the best. Bumping is also possible, though it's stupidly mapped to the touch screen. There's no way to assign it to a button, and if you prefer to use the face buttons to push the flippers, you won't have a chance to keep her rolling in line.

Different gameplay mechanics break things up from simple rolling around. A short jumping mini-game isn't very successful, but it's brief. Here you'll wall jump using the triggers to grab a power-up. It's too easy once you grasp the timing requirement.

Another is what Metroid has done best: shooting. Samus will pop up in specific parts of the screen once activated and start a showdown with enemies dropping on top of her. She can't actually move, only turning her body to fire in a few different directions. It's an interesting diversion to gain more points, and in the frame of a pinball game, it's acceptable.

Metroid Pinball showcases a clean, sharp sprite-based graphics engine on the DS. The double screen couldn't be better suited to any other genre, and it's integral to gameplay. With all the bonuses and extra point opportunities, Prime Pinball lends itself to those who play it extensively. That's the only way you'll get everything you should of it.

With its few minor issues, it's perfectly acceptable to find this engrossing little DS title impossible to stop playing. The urge to capture a new high score is here and implemented perfectly. The adventure aspects only surround the scoring aspects to make everything else stronger and addictive.

(**** out of *****)

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