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Platform: GameBoy Advance

Genre: Arcade

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

ESRB: E (Everyone)

Released: Q4 2004

 

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Mario Pinball Land

Score: 6.5 / 10

 

Pros:

- Lots of familiar Mario themes and settings

- Just about anyone can play it

Save system

 

Cons:

- Can achieve “Frustration” status easily

- It’s all over pretty quick if you’re good at pinball

 

 

Related Links:

Review: Mario and Luigi - Superstar Saga (GBA)

Review: Air Hockey 3D (PC)

 

"This socio-political thriller of a game is kicked off when the Princess is compacted into a ball and shot out of a cannon..."

 

During the 16-Bit Wars the chief video game rivalry was between Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario.  They appeared on different systems and both spawned legions of faithful followers.  I only bring this up because Mario Pinball Land (MPL) reminds me so much of Sonic’s forays into the Casino Zone, which often resembled a massive pinball machine.  MPL’s a nod to Sonicteam of yesteryear but instead of a few stages pinballing around, Mario spends that entire game curled in a ball as the Mushroom Kingdom has inexplicably been transformed into a complex series of connected pinball boards.

 

mario pinball land review         mario pinball land review

 

This socio-political thriller of a game is kicked off when the Princess is compacted into a ball and shot out of a cannon, landing beyond the walls of a foreboding castle.  In a heartbeat, Mario leaps into the fray to save the Princess.  Again.

 

Here’s the first Mario game I can remember where there’s no direct control over Mario.  Instead you use flippers to bat him around each board.  Although the concept is new for Mario, the very familiar bestiary of foes and environments are not.  You’ll come across power blocks, lots of coins, stars, and Toad with his magic tent of power-ups, which include shrink mushrooms, Yoshi eggs (for that extra assist), growth mushrooms and pipes.

 

 

To make the game a little less frustrating, as each board starts a pipe is located between the flippers making it more difficult to lose a ball (or in this case, Mario) or have the ball roll to a previous board.  After a while the pipe blinks from existence and the real challenge starts.  It you have a pipe power-up, activating it puts the pipe back – and you’ll want to have one them in reserve every time you face-off with a boss.

 

Bosses produce the most frustration as they tend to knock Mario back directly between the flippers, making for a quick exit to the board you just fought through.

 

I say “frustration” since even at the best of times I have the pinballing skills of a patch of grass.  Smacking Mario around isn’t a problem; it’s the precision and timing required that drives me nuts.  Targets are constantly in motion and the targets that do stay still, like doors, still require finesse to nail.  Once in a while I would get in the zone, flipping on the shoulder buttons like a pro, and go for 30 minutes at a stretch without losing a ball as everything happened the way I wanted it to happen.  But this didn’t happen a lot.

 

mario pinball land review         mario pinball land review

 

The animation and movement feels right for a pinball game but there are some liberties taken like putting Mario underwater, which doesn’t radically alter the game but still makes it feel different.  MPL hits all the familiar Mario audio cues, while putting just enough spin on the proceeding to prevent it from being tired.

 

MPL features a great save system.  If you’re in the middle of playing, you can save and pick-up from the same board when you restart (much the same way Mario Golf Advance Tour handled its saves).

 

There’s no multiplayer to speak of but pinball has always been about the solo experience – setting the high score then waiting for someone else to beat it.  In terms of challenge and entertainment Mario Pinball Land is a good choice for a long flight or a series of shorter periods.  Depending on your pinball skills you might even be done before the flight is over.

 

- Omni

(November 5, 2004)

 

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