Pinball games are one of those genres that you feel a bit loathed to spend money on. Generally they don't offer that much gameplay or storyline and you get over them rather quickly. When this game was first announced I was skeptical and assumed Nintendo had yet again decided to tarnish one of its most famous franchises to get a quick buck but how wrong I was. Metroid Prime Pinball is one of the best games on the DS and the fact it comes with the rumble pack, required for some future games, is just a bonus.
For those who don't know the storyline behind Metroid, it tells the story of a young bounty hunter named Samus, traveling the galaxy riding the world of space pirates and metroids, her one true enemy. The storyline of the pinball game (yes this game actually does have a story) somewhat follows this and encourages you to keep playing. The storyline unfolds as you perform tasks on the various boards. There are no cut scenes however which is disappointing.
As you would expect, the game plays much like any pinball game; you basically have a number of paddles and have to keep the ball from falling below. However Metroid Pinball does this in a way which keeps you interested and the developers have really worked hard on providing a compelling game experience. For the most part they have succeeded in doing so. To give you an example of a typical game, you generally play for around ten to twenty minutes on a board gathering artifacts before taking on a boss and moving to another table. This is where the storyline comes in as the bosses and boards are taken directly from the famous Metroid game's.
Where Metroid Pinball falls down is as you would expect - the longevity. It is definitely a game for travel rather than home play. It provides one of the best travel games on the system due to the fact switching off at any point is not going to lose you too much game progression, other than a new high score of course. However this appears to be made up by the heavy use of the Metroid universe in the game and the number of missions on offer. On each table there is an area where you can hit the ball and a mission will be triggered. Once triggered the game turns into more a Space Invaders style game rather than pinball as with some Samus will become combat ready, spin out of her ball and start firing away. This is a very cool part of the game and it's nice to see the developers wanted to cover Aran from all her gameplay past.
There are five boards in the game overall which may not seem like much but each has a depth and complexity to a level you don't usually find in these games. There is, as mentioned, a number of game modes to trigger and this extends the longevity. The visuals of the game also enhance the gameplay. The boards are split across the two screens allowing you to always see the paddles and plan further hits rather than the scrolling style we've come to expect with games of this type. Samus is reproduced well in both ball and human form
Metroid Prime Pinball is one of the surprises for the DS and continues to show why, in some quarters, the DS is seen as superior to the PSP. High quality gaming, perfect for traveling and the rumble pack for future games - you really can't go wrong with this one if you're a fan of bouncing balls.