Kirby's Pinball Land
  • Genre:
    • Pinball
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • HAL
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 11/27/1993
    • US November 1993
    • UK 1993
Score: 75%

This review was published on 01/01/2015.

Kirby's Pinball Land is a pinball game developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the original Game Boy in 1993. It stars Kirby, the titular pink puffball from the Kirby's Dream Land series, which started on the Game Boy in 1992. This is the first spinoff in the Kirby series and the second Kirby game released for the Game Boy. HAL Laboratory previously developed another pinball game for the Game Boy called Revenge of the 'Gator; some concepts from that game are used in Kirby's Pinball Land. Additionally, Kirby's Pinball Land is the second pinball game published by Nintendo, the first being the aptly titled Pinball for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I hope that's enough pinball trivia for you. Anyway, Kirby's Pinball Land combines the whimsical nature of the Kirby series with traditional pinball game play to form something that's not at all traditional. This interesting fusion produces a pinball game that's more fun than most.

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Our rotund hero, Kirby, takes advantage of his roundness to bounce his way through a giant pinball themed land. Similar to real pinball, the player is limited to controlling two flippers at the bottom of the screen. Kirby acts as the ball and must be struck by the flippers to bounce around the environment. I bet that hurts. The only other form of control the player has is the ability to slightly shake the screen to sometimes nudge the ball around, which simulates the act of frantically shaking a pinball machine to cheat at the game. Control wise, Kirby's Pinball Land plays just like any other traditional pinball video game. One marginally unique mechanic, though, is how the ball can be saved a limited amount of times before you lose a life. At the very bottom of the screen lies a floating platform that can bring Kirby back into the game if you time it just right. The platform deteriorates each time you use it, so you can't rely on it forever, but it's a neat addition that keeps you in the game much longer. Kirby's Pinball Land has decent pinball physics to back up its decent controls, making it a delight to play for pinball enthusiasts.

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Unlike most pinball games, the point isn't to score points, though that still is a possibility. Instead, the objective is to conquer all the stages and get to the final fight with King DeDeDe himself, the antagonist of the Kirby series. There are three stages in all and you can choose what order to do them in. The stage select is a miniature pinball game in itself, as you must knock Kirby into the stage you wish to visit via the flippers. It adds absolutely nothing to the game, but is nonetheless fun. Every stage, or board if you prefer, has three sections to it; a top, middle, and bottom. You always start in the middle part and can work your way to the top or bottom by knocking Kirby up or allowing him to drop down. Each section serves a particular purpose, such as the top section leads to the boss, the middle leads to bonus stages, and the bottom can be used to travel between stages using the Warp Star. The methods to activate bosses, bonus stages, and Warp Stars differ from stage to stage, though they usually involve hitting things a certain number of times. It's a consistent setup that gives the game a nice structure.

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The general flow of the game involves reaching the highest point of the stage as soon as possible, because that's where the boss is. There are various ways to do this, though, giving the game a flexible feel. It's a lot easier to get to the lower sections of a stage than the higher ones, since going to the bottom is as easy as letting go of the buttons and watching Kirby spiral downwards. Getting to the top, however, is a different story. If you're really good with the flippers, you can simply toss Kirby up there, but there are other methods for the less skilled. One good way is to shoot for a bonus stage; completing a bonus stage automatically puts Kirby at the highest point of a regular stage, resulting in easier access to the boss. This gives the bonus stages a far greater sense of purpose. There are other strategies, but either way, the flexibility in which you can go about reaching your goal is cool. Also, there's some detective work involved in figuring out how to activate the bosses and bonus stages, so it's not just a test of reflexes, but also a measure of puzzle solving skills. This game's got flow.

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Bonus stages provide bonus fun to Kirby's Pinball Land. The point of the bonus stages is to get points. Sure, beating the game has a higher priority, but doing so with a high score proves that you're extra cool. Everyone wants to be extra cool, right? Each main stage has its own separate bonus stage attached to it and you can access the same bonus stage multiple times to rack up points. The things you do to earn points in each bonus stage differ depending on what bonus stage you're playing. For example, there's a bonus stage similar to Breakout or Arkanoid, wherein you use the ball to destroy breakable bricks at the top of the screen, and another one that's like soccer in pinball form. 1ups can also be obtained in the bonus stages, but actually getting them is rather difficult. There are no consequences for failing a bonus stage other than losing the chance at getting extra points or 1ups, so they're all about having a good time. The bonus stages provide a nice change of pace from the typical pinball stuff. With three different bonus stages, all with unique gimmicks, there's enough variety to put a bonus in anyone's paycheck.

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Bosses aren't a regular occurrence in most pinball games, but they are in Kirby's Pinball Land. At the end of every stage lays a ferocious foe the likes of which you've never seen before. That's not completely true, actually. You will be fighting bosses, but they're familiar faces from the other Kirby games, so you likely have seen them before. There is one unique boss per stage, plus the final battle against King DeDeDe. Every boss fight is slightly different, but they follow similar rules: Kirby must be knocked into the boss to damage it. Bosses will attempt to push Kirby back into the Warp Star at the bottom, which brings Kirby back to the stage, forcing him to retrace his steps to reach the boss again. Sometimes bosses will freeze one of the flippers, and that's no good. Battles with bosses can be obnoxious due to having to repeatedly retry them, but you technically have unlimited tries to win. Despite how annoying some of the bosses are, the boss fights are the best part of the game. They're just so different from everything else in the game that it makes them endearing.

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Kirby's Pinball Land is a fun pinball game for those that like fun pinball games. The music's pleasing to the ear, the graphics are charming, and the pinball physics are solid. Being able to visit the stages in any order is dandy, and the freedom within the stages themselves is also appreciated. Bonus stages give the game more variety and add to the fun factor. The boss fights, while occasionally frustrating, are a highlight as they give the game a unique flavor when compared to other pinball games. Unfortunately, the game is insanely short, especially if you're good at pinball games. The other problem is that the game has little to do with Kirby, aside from the graphics and music. Very few mechanics from the Kirby series are in this game; Kirby's Pinball Land is really just a pinball game with a Kirby motif. It is, however, a good pinball game.

Word Count: 1,341

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