Pinball
  • Genre:
    • Pinball
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    Arcade
    • 1984
    NES
    • JP 02/02/1984
    • US 10/18/1985
    • UK 01/09/1986
    FDS
    • JP 05/30/1989
Score: 70%

This review was published on 10/02/2016.

Pinball is a, well, pinball video game published and developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom Disk System. Based on the design of a Game and Watch handheld unit Nintendo created in 1983, Pinball was originally released for the NES in Japan on February 2, 1984, North America on October 18, 1985, and Europe on January 9, 1986. This was a launch game for the NES in North America. The Famicom Disk System version came out in Japan on May 30, 1989, but it's basically the same as the original. There was also an arcade version of the game called Vs. Pinball that was available worldwide in 1984. Being able to play pinball from the comfort of your own home was a fairly big deal back then, so this proved to be one of the NES' more popular launch titles. Today, this game is disgustingly simple, but it still isn't bad. If you like pinball, then you may get some enjoyment out of this digital conversion of the real thing.

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There's nothing complicated about pinball, both the real thing and this game. Basically, you use the two flippers at the bottom of the screen to bounce the ball all over the darn place. The A and B buttons control the right flipper and launch the ball at the beginning of the game, and pressing any direction on the d-pad moves the left flipper. Other than that, the only other thing you can do is press the start button to pause the game. You can't tilt or shake the virtual machine like you can in future pinball video games, so it all comes down to skillfully manipulating the flippers. If the ball falls all the way to the bottom, you'll lose it and must try again. Lose all your balls and the game will be over. With this game's decent ball physics and precise controls, bouncing around the pinball table is a delightful experience.

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The objective of pinball is to simply get as many points as you can before you lose all your balls. There are many ways to get points, but most of them involve bouncing the ball into various objects on the table. The point values for most objects will be listed on the table itself, though that's not the case for everything. Objects include various bumpers, special lanes for the ball to pass through, a slot machine, cards that flip over when the ball touches them, and so on. While there are no actual backgrounds to speak of, there are some things on the table that add personality to the game, like cute little penguins, seals, and chicks that hatch out of eggs. There's no background music, but the neat pinball sound effects make up for that. Due to all the fun objects that your ball can interact with, learning the ins and outs of this table will prove to be an entertaining time.

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Future pinball games will have multiple pinball tables to play on, but this game only has one. The table is divided into two main parts: the upper section and the lower section. These sections are stacked vertically, so the ball can enter the lower section by falling to the bottom of the upper section, and go to the upper section by going to the top of the bottom section. There's no screen scrolling, which may sound like a detriment, but it's actually a good thing, because no part of either section will ever be scrolled off screen. This allows you to always see the entirety of each section, leaving nothing to the imagination. At the beginning of each game, the ball will always be launched to the upper section first, which gives you some leeway to make a couple of mistakes before outright losing the ball. Overall, the structure of the main table is simple enough that players will learn it in no time.

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If you manage to get the ball into the hole at the top right of the screen in the lower section of the table, you'll enter the bonus stage. Here, instead of flipping flippers, you'll take control of Mario from the Super Mario Bros. series! Mario will be at the bottom of the screen holding a platform over his head that can bounce the ball, and you make him walk left and right by pressing those directions on the d-pad. At the top is Pauline, Mario's old girlfriend from the original Donkey Kong arcade game, and the goal is to free her. To accomplish this, you must bounce the ball into the numbered circles at the center of the screen and change a single column of them to the same color three times. Doing this will destroy Pauline's bondage and cause her to gently fall down, hopefully onto Mario's platform. Then, she must be taken to one of the exits on either side of the screen for the rescue to be complete. The cycle continues until you lose the ball or allow Pauline to fall to the ground. This is, by far, the best part of the game.

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This game has two modes to it: Game A and Game B. At first glance, these two modes will seem completely identical. However, there is a subtle, but important difference, and that's in the way the ball moves. The ball's physics are slightly different between modes, with Game A having a lighter ball and Game B having a heavier one. The ball in Game A bounces around more wildly, which tends to result in easier point acquisition. In a way, the two modes sort of represent two difficulties, as Game B is overall more challenging due to the heavier ball. Additionally, both modes can be played with either one or two players. In the two player incarnations, both players simply take turns playing the game, switching off whenever one of them loses a ball. Ouch.

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Having solid pinball physics and tight controls, Pinball is a decent enough pinball game. It's a bit basic by today's standards, as it only has a single pinball table to play on and there's no background music, but what's there is fairly well put together. The core mechanics are still good even by today's standards, so it's still possible to enjoy this game now if you're looking for something simple. Of course, there are far better pinball games out there now, but this was pretty good for the early-to-mid 1980s, and still isn't bad today.

Word Count: 1,086

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