Video Game Review

Mania Grade: C

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  • Platform: Game Boy Advance
  • ESRB: Everyone
  • Players: 1
  • Online: No
  • Developer: Fuse Games
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Suggested Retail: $29.99
  • Graphics: A
  • Sound: C-
  • Gameplay: C-
  • Replay: C-
  • Fun Factor: C-
  • Reviewer’s Wild Card: C-


By James Stevenson     October 21, 2004

© Nintendo

I like pinball it's kind of a shame that the arcade has become such a rarity and that old-style pinball has gone the way of the Dodo. Given the power of the current crop of home game machines, and the fact that the arcade props like dance pads and bongos find their way into the home, pinball would be one of the few things arcades have left but we even have video versions of it.

Enter MARIO PINBALL LAND. Nintendo loves taking a new style of game, slapping the name of its mascot character on it to ensure some sales and releasing it on the Game Boy. Unfortunately, it tries to combine an adventure style of gameplay with pinball and it just really isn't that much fun to play.

The areas in the game are an interconnecting series of small screen size boards that have enemies and other obstacles/puzzles to overcome. There are Stars throughout the level that can be collected to open doors and further your progress. Getting through these doors can be a pain, and when you miss on an upper level you fall to the one below. The time I spent trying to navigate between the maps is enough to make me throw my GBA against the wall.

None of the boards really even qualify as true pinball boards at all. I would love a big scrolling board (c'mon DS, imagine the potential to see the upper part of the board on the top screen) that have Mario themes, little missions you complete by hitting certain areas, and a ton of maps. But instead we get the sort of an adventure game and sort of a pinball game.

If you're going to do something, do it well. MARIO PINBALL LAND doesn't really do pinball or Mario Land well. The adventure part of the game isn't anything to write home about as it's really simple and doesn't do anything for me. The fact that I have to play it with flippers and a tilted playing field really annoys me and it makes the game a big pain in the butt and not much fun to play. At least in normal pinball when you hit the ball it does something, trying to hit a specific target that is moving, failing, and trying over and over again is significantly irritating.

That said, I managed to cope and get through the game fairly quickly, but it seemed like more of a chore to clear certain areas than a pleasure and that's always a problem. It just doesn't seem very well thought through on Nintendo's part and lacks any real innovation, though fans of Mario are going to enjoy the romp through the Mario-themed worlds.

The graphics are absolutely beautiful though and very impressive. You'd be surprised how incredible this game looks and from the screens, I would've never guessed it is a GBA game. Can you recommend a GBA game on graphics alone? This one would be close. The sound isn't too hot though. Really annoying music, better to play music off your iPod while you enjoy this game (if you enjoy this game).

It's not terrible, but it's flawed. It just doesn't do a good job with recreating the pinball experience, or really a good Mario experience. Fans of either might want to check it out, but don't expect much.

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