Addictive, innovative gameplay. Seemingly lost amongst the glitz, glamour, and gaudy system specs of recent history, that gameplay is shown to be alive and well in Pokémon Pinball. Maybe it takes a system as relatively simple as the GBC to filter out all the next-gen hype, allowing this game to effortlessly combine two disparate genres into one fluid and completely playable package.

   The premise here is a unique one - combine the monster collecting and evolving of Pokémon with the fast-paced and non-stop style of pinball. Luckily, instead of slowing down pinball to match the pace of Pokémon, Nintendo sped up PokÈmon to the frenetic pace of pinball. You have a choice between 2 tables, Red and Blue, each of which contain different Pokémon in different quantities, much like their RPG inspirations. Bumpers are now Voltorbs, switches have become Psyducks, and your pinball is now a pokéball.

 'Did I really just play until my batteries died?'
The field of battle

   Beyond the variation in Pokémon, each table also presents different versions of similar bonuses and obstacles. You can upgrade your pokéball to a Great Ball, Ultra Ball, or Master Ball, along with attempting to capture or evolve Pokémon or traveling to a new "location". The window in the middle of the table displays whatever is going on at the time, whether it be your current location or the Pokémon you are trying to capture. Traveling up a pair of ramps on either side of the table keeps control of whether you can catch or evolve your Pokémon at any given time.

   The capture process begins by sending the pokéball through the right loop, and then into the mouth of a certain Pokémon. You will now see the silhouette of the Pokémon you can capture, then hit various bumpers until the picture is filled out and the Pokémon itself appears in the window. Evolution requires shooting the ball through an opposite (left) loop, selecting a Pokémon to evolve and finding the needed items/experience by hitting different areas of the table. Each of the 18 locations contains different common and rare Pokémon, with a dozen of these locations available at either table.

   Bonuses play a much different role here than in any standard pinball title. After capturing or evolving 3 Pokémon, you have the chance to enter a very high-stakes bonus game. Examples include playing whack-a-Diglett while making your way to a 50,000,000 point Dugtrio, or bashing a graveyard full of tombstones and Haunters until Gengar makes an appearance. These bonus rounds are the most direct involvement of Pokémon in the gameplay, and mastering them is both fun and necessary to gain the highest scores.

Addicted?  HA!  I can quit whenever I want!  Really, I can...
Just a few more minutes...

   After all, pinball in any form is dedicated to getting the highest score possible. There are dozens of little touches that add to the subtlety of the gameplay, from shaking the table in 3 directions to using a paddle to charge up special Pikabumpers. A Pokédex keeps track of all 151 (yes, 151) Pokémon that you can find in the game, regardless of table or which game you saw them in. High scores are kept separately for each table, and can be transferred using the Game Boy Color's infrared port. The use of a "rumble cart" is very effective, making your Game Boy Color seem a bit more like an actual pinball table. The game also boasts configurable controls, a smooth learning curve, and battery-backed game saves at any time, all of which allow the time-starved gamer to go it at his own pace.

   In combining these 2 seemingly incompatible genres, Pokémon Pinball has managed the difficult feat of taking the best from each. The redundancy of pinball is gone, with varied bonuses and a dozen locations on each table, while the collecting and evolving aspect of Pokémon is pared down to its purest from. Those who played Pokémon for the multiplayer battles and long-term training wonít find much to do here, but those who have scorned Pokémon because training bored them may want to take a second look. Just about anyone who enjoys accessible and interesting gameplay, Pokéfan or not, might just be amazed at how much was squeezed onto this one little rumble cart.

Review by Ed McGlothlin, GIA.
Pokémon Pinball
Developer Nintendo
Publisher Nintendo
Genre Pinball Adventure
Medium Cartridge (Rumble)
Platform Game Boy Color
Release Date  Released
27 assorted screenshots
US Packaging