Metroid Prime Pinball


posted 1/13/2006 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: DS
There was one boss fight in Prime 2 Echoes that was played entirely in the Morphball, and while some gamers found it irritating and out of place, I thought it was pure genius. It offered a refreshing change of pace from the jump-lock-shoot routine and explored Samus’ potential in ball form. Prime Pinball takes that idea to the extreme.

The gameplay is structured much like the ball puzzles in the Prime games; Samus has a set amount of energy and can be damaged by the hazards scattered throughout the tables. A first for a pinball game is the inclusion of weapons—Samus is the only pinball that can lay bombs, and for the occasional minigame she actually unrolls for some blaster play. The ubiquitous bomb sockets from the Prime games make an appearance, and activate a slot machine interface that rewards certain bonus items, such as extra balls or a safety force field.

In addition, Samus isn’t the only player on the table, with a variety of enemies swarming in randomly. These include the humble parasite and the fearsome Space Pirates, and of course some (gasp!) Metroids float down from time to time. Then there are the bosses. A few of Samus’ most memorable adversaries return from Prime in their respective levels, such as Thardus and the Omega Pirate. The strategies for defeating them this time are admittedly different (and not as original) but just as challenging.

To enhance the gameplay, Nintendo included the DS rumble pak with Prime Pinball—it’s the first game to use the peripheral. It’s incredibly small, literally the size of a GBA cartridge, but it generates enough vibration to convey bumps and rattles. IGN complained rather vocally about the noise the pak makes, but to be honest I didn’t find it all that distracting. It produces a faint thrumming sound whenever it rumbles, but the sounds of the game drown most of it out. The pak adds a drain to the battery but you’ll still get about six hours with it (assuming you play six hours of Prime Pinball without swapping another game in). Overall it’s a worthwhile portable, and it comes free with the game, another plus to an already attractive package.

The icing on the cake is the touch functionality. By nudging either side of the bottom screen you can “tilt” the table, sometimes saving your Morphball from a nasty fall between the flippers. It’s nothing huge, but the game doesn’t suffer from it and it adds a touch of realism.

With all the gameplay elements and the inclusion of the rumble feature, the whole experience is quite a rush and is truly a clever fusion of Metroid and pinball. But, it is not without a few flaws. Players must unlock the tables by playing through the mission mode, which spans a series of objective based locations across Tallon IV. There is no way to save between the levels, and dying means starting from the beginning. So, you’ll have to dig deep into the missions and even beat the game in one sitting to open up all the tables in arcade mode. Thankfully, the mission mode isn’t that long, but it’s challenging enough that frustration sets in after the third or fourth “game over”.

My only other complaint is the multiplayer. True, it was nice for Fuse to throw a multi option in at all, but the actual mode is so slim on content it seems almost like an afterthought. It consists of only one table where up to eight players compete for a high score. Each competitor plays individually with no other balls on the screen besides their own, but there is a marker that indicates the score position of the other players. DS download play is supported, and with eight players that’s pretty impressive, I just wish there was a wider variety of tables. Prime Pinball’s multiplayer will keep pinball enthusiasts battling their friends for the highest score, but with Wifi online masterpieces like Mario Kart DS, it won’t be getting any huge attention.

It’s a rare game that surprises me with its quality, but Prime Pinball caught me off guard. Metroid fans will love the attention to detail and how their favorite universe has been recreated faithfully and respectfully. Pinball wizards can’t hope for a more intriguing or unique challenge; what other game sends alien monsters after your pinball? Casual players might be put off by the initially steep difficulty, but with a little practice Metroid Prime Pinball is very enjoyable.

After their flub with the Mario franchise, Fuse surprised us all with a pinball version of Metroid. The more logical subject matter and double the screen room resulted in a solid game, filled with Metroid homage and tight pinball mechanics. The difficulty is a tad severe for newcomers and the multiplayer is light on content, but the overall package is a must have for Metroid and pinball fans alike.

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