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TSS REVIEW: Sonic Pinball Party

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This topic was good and got turned into TSS REVIEW: Sonic Pinball Party at some point.

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Who doesn't like pinball? Along with arcades, pinball has become a classic pastime that is slowly fading out. Just the other weekend the only pinball machine that took my interest was a bizzare Simpsons one, and that was the only one in the arcade too. Ah, the thrill of slamming those flippers to whip that metal ball into that bonus target. I tell you, it's timeless, but forgotten in this day and age.


Sonic Spinball, released back in 1993, when pinball'ing was still rife, caught a lot of interest. If not because it was the first Sonic console game to truly break from his platforming roots. Although the majority of Spinball was, well, cack, you can't beat a bit of Toxic Caves, nor can anything else in Sonic history challenge the difficulty level of the final stage, Showdown. As inventive a game as it was, many fans didn't, and still don't, take to Sonic Spinball very well, unfortunately. Which is a shame.


But also kind of a relief, for later on, zipping forward to this year, Sonic Team decide to have a pop at the old Sonic pinball thing themselves (Spinball was developed by STI, and not Sonic Team). Perhaps a move chosen after seeing the fan's responce to the 1993 title, and perhaps it's strong roots with the Archie universe, Sonic Team decided not to call this game Sonic Spinball '2' as it was originally going to be made as.


And instead of using Sonic as the ball, and flipping him through a brain-numbingly elaborate maze of linked pinball machines, Sonic Pinball Party keeps things simple by using the straightforward, classic style of pinball as the development inspiration. There are three different tables to choose from - there's your Sonic table, a NiGHTS table and a Samba de Amigo table. Each one has their own unique little extras, point scoring tidbits and quirky gimmicks to them. It'll be the Sonic table you'll be playing on most, if the Story Mode is anything to go by.


And the Story Mode is hilarious. Playing the stages is great, but the cutscenes rival that to 'Agadoo' to total cheesiness. In it, Sonic is challenged to take part in a Pinball Tournament. Along the way enemies he makes give him some kind of vague challenge to do before the next stage. Tails, Amy and Sonic's other friends challenge him with red eyes, but appear to be "brainwashed" after the 'intense battle' by Eggman. Except for Knuckles. He didn't need brainwashing. Obviously. An example of a conversation:


Eggman: So, you've finally found me, Sonic.

Sonic: I knew. You were behind... This, Eggman. I won't let you get away with this!

Eggman: Well, yes, whoever gets the most point in the time limit wins...

Sonic: I won't let you get away with this!

Eggman: Shut up! I said whoever gets the most point in the...

Sonic: I won't let you get away with this!

Eggman: Silence! I'm telling you your challenge!

Sonic: I won't let you get away with this!

Eggman: ... Anyone for a brew?


The challenges are varied most of the time, but usually involve getting high points. In Story Mode, you'll pretty much be playing Sonic's table and not much else. Being the easiest of tables, the aim is to flip your ball through the 'EGG' ramp three times to call up Eggman. Then you have to slam the ball in the hole below Eggman's fat rump to beat him and the table. Sometimes when you complete the table you're on, you complete the stage, other times you go onto a similar board, with a different layout. These layouts range from the Sonic Advance stages: Neo Green Hill Zone, Secret Base, Angel Island, that kind of thing.


Sadly, the Story Mode is very limited once you realise you've completed it. It's a blast trying to beat Eggman at the end, however, you realise that there could have been a Story Mode for NiGHTS or Samba too. Or there could have been an extra table and had you play as Tails or something. Either way, the Story Mode is flawed in it's longevity, and Pinball Party shouldn't be bought for a lasting 1 Player challenge. However, what you will find coming back to most is the Arcade mode, where you can freely play on the NiGHTS, Sonic or Samba tables.


The NiGHTS tables are for the more experienced players, and in Arcade mode you have to head into the Ideya Palace three times to Dualise yourself - once done you hit the Ideya Capture to the side of the table to earn one Ideya. Repeat to collect all Ideyas, then challenge the Nightmaren of the stage. It's a good time to point out now the excellence of the game's sounds and music. While the Sonic tables are a little uninspiring - just the same old Sonic Advance music, which you'd expect - the NiGHTS music is Game Boy'ed supremely well indeed, with Dreams Dreams, Splash Garden and the rest faithfully recreated for the handheld. When getting a multi-ball, the Sonic R theme 'Super Sonic Racing' pops up, and the Samba music is perhaps the best I've heard on the GBA yet. Sadly the Samba table is just a one-stage affair, but there's a section where you have to literally play Samba de Amigo in a break off moment from the table. Great fun.


As far as the extras go, they're quite extensive. There are options, the Tiny Chao Garden that just won't bugger off, a variety of innovative Multi-player options and Casinopolis. Casinopolis is a way to earn more rings for Tiny Chao Garden, but this option has been, quite frankly, shattily done. Whichever option you play in this mode, there will be two targets at the top left and right of the screen - both are immense buggers to hit, and in the times you do get them on target, when the ball shoots out it goes right down the pan, losing you rings. Shat.


Overall, Sonic Pinball Party is a game that revives the pinball genre and actually makes it fun to play pinball video games again (who can remember the god-awful Pinball Dreams on Mega Drive). Up against Pokemon Pinball on the GBA also, I'm not sure how popular SEGA thinks Sonic is with Nintendo fans yet to put him up against "the franchise that never dies". This game is worthy of a few bob or two, especially if you like pinball - unlike Sonic Spinball, this is a faithful pinball-sim-a-like, with a heap of Sonic smashed in. Great fun, but a little short-lived on the one player side.

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