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.
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
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.
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.
||Game Boy Color|
|27 assorted screenshots