The year is coming to an end, and admittedly it hasn’t been a very productive year for the site. Only two articles and not a single 30 minute review. I would feel guilty if i left it like that, so here we are pushing out one more article while we still can.
For today’s 30 minute review, I thought it would be nice to check in on an old favorite of mine, Pokémon Pinball. One of the earliest spin off titles for the series, Pokémon Pinball brings all the thrills of catching them all and converts them over to a pinball machine setting. It’s been a while since I last played, so I don’t remember many of the details, but I know you could catch or evolve all 150 of the original Pokémon in this game, though doing so is quite the challenge. But let’s not wonder about it, let’s just dive in and see how well Pokémon Pinball holds up today!
Just like with the original game set, Pokémon Pinball offers up two different Fields to play on, a Red Field and a Blue Field. The layouts of the Fields are slightly different, but more importantly, each Field has different Pokémon you are capable of catching. For no reason other than the fact it’s on the left, we’re going to check out the Red Field first.
When the Field first loads up, the screen in the center of the table will start to cycle through the different areas of the world. This will determine what Pokémon are available for you to catch during this playthrough. I happened to start my game in Lavender Town.
Now it’s time to get the obvious observations out of the way. The table is pretty bare for a pinball machine. The top half of the machine has a set of three Voltorbs acting as bumpers. There is also a Bellsprout that will swallow your Pokéball and spit it back out. Then there’s a Ditto in the top corner blocking a secret hole. I believe this is related to evolution, but I never managed to get him to move. The bottom half of the screen doesn’t really have much at all to interact with. There are the flippers of course, but other than that there’s really only the two Digletts poking out of the side walls to interact with.
Eventually a Pokémon will appear and you’ll be able to start catching it. I’d like to comment on what actually triggers the Pokémon to appear, but I didn’t notice it. Anyway, once a Pokémon does appear, you have only 2 minutes to aim your Pokéball up to the Voltorb bumpers to gradually uncover what Pokémon you have the chance to catch.
Once you uncover all the tiles, the Pokémon will finally be catchable. In my case, we get a chance to catch a Magnemite. To catch it, all you have to do it hit it a few times with the Pokéball. Each time you hit it, the word “CATCH!” will be spelled out below it. Manage to spell out the whole word and one more hit is all you’ll need to finally catch it. One Pokémon down, 149 left to go!
After you successfully catch the Pokémon, a nice bonus slot will appear. The hole has a bit of suction to it, so it’s not that hard to get the ball into it. As soon as you do, the various Bonus rewards will start to cycle until it finally lands on one. I happened to get Pika Power, which causes the Pikachu at the bottom to rapidly jump between the sides and help keep the Pokéball in play.
Before we leave the Red Field, there’s one last discovery I want to mention. If you manage to light up all three of the lights above the Voltorbs it will actually upgrade your Pokéball to the next powerful Pokéball. Now I have a Great Ball. My understanding is that the stronger balls will cause “CATCH!” to spell out faster. Unfortunately I never get to test that out as I lose my last ball shortly after this.
So that’s enough time for the Red Field. Let’s Move on to the Blue Field for a while. Right away you’ll notice that the Blue Field is nearly as simplistic as the Red Field, just with a bit more of a water typing to it. The Voltorbs have been replaced with Shellders, Bellsprout with Cloyster, and Digletts with either a Poliwag or a Psyduck.
One notable difference however is the blue arrow on the top half of the Field. This arrow has a gravitational nature to it, attracting the Pokéball to it and propelling it in the direction the arrow is facing. This makes it much easier in my opinion to actually get the ball up into the bumpers and special areas. It is also a contributing factor in making this Field feel easier and therefor more fun to play on.
I think partially because of this, I managed to not only catch a Pidgey, but actually evolve it too. That’s right! You can actually evolve the Pokémon you catch. Assuming you can keep the ball going long enough. Evolution in the game is actually fairly easy. After activating Evolution mode, which in the Blue Field is triggered by Slowpoke, you have to hit one of the various bumpers and switches marked around the Field.
Once you do, an EXP will appear randomly somewhere on the Field that you need to collect. After collecting 3 EXP, all you have to do is knock the Pokéball into the hole and like magic your Pokémon has evolved. I’m now the proud owner of a Pidgeotto!
After evolving my Pidgey into Pidgeotto, I apparently unlocked a Bonus Stage. Unfortunately, I lost the ball shortly after this and got a game over. So I guess I’ll simply never know what the Bonus Stage looks like.
That’s pretty much all there is to show you for this game. Two Fields where you play pinball and try to catch all 150 original Pokémon. The only other thing I want to point out is the fact that there is a Pokédex on the main menu that will let you see all the Pokémon you’ve managed to capture during your various play times.
Price – $9.97
I still have my original cartridge for this one, but a quick searched says you can find the game pretty easily for under $10. It’s a great game, especially for the price, and any Pokémon fan should have it in their collection.
Play Again? – Probably
I’m not good at pinball games. At this point I’m pretty sure it’s obvious I’m not very good at any games, but pinball I feel I’m especially not good at. However, this has a very fun and unique gimmick to it that goes beyond the traditional pinball table. For that alone I’d probably come back to this on occasion.
Total Deaths – You don’t die playing pinball (I hope)
You don’t exactly die playing pinball, but I did go through about 6 full games in just my 30 minute play time. I remember being able to keep a single game going for nearly an hour back when I played more frequently, but my skills have clearly rusted over time.
Fun Rating – 7 / 10
Pinball I think is one of those activities where you either love it or you hate it, and there really isn’t a whole lot of grey area in between. The two Fields are rather simplistic, and on their own would get boring very quickly. It also might just be me, but the Red Field seems much harder and less fun than the Blue Field. In this regard, the game isn’t really anything special and probably wouldn’t even earn a second glance. However, the ability to catch and evolve your Pokémon while playing is what really makes the game stand out. It’s still not a particularly deep mechanic, but with 150 Pokémon to catch, it’s a great incentive to play again and again. In the end, it might be just an average Pinball game at best, but it’s a very fun Pokémon Spin-off.
My high score for the new year!
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