SONIC SPINBALL / Sega / Genesis

I guess there's two basic approaches you can take when making a video pinball game - try to replicate the feel of an authentic machine as closely as possible, or use the expanded boundaries of the video game to just go hog wild and have huge tables with tons of stuff all over the place, even perhaps a ball that gets up and walks and jumps sometimes. You can probably guess which approach Sega decided to take with Sonic Spinball.

Sonic begins by walking (or running, or spin-dashing and jumping, your choice) to the plunger where he is shot out into a massive sewer-themed level spanning multiple screens. Survive this, and there's a lava world, a mechanized area and an animal prison waiting before the final boss showdown. Aside from the usual pinball pursuit of racking up as many points as possible by hitting bumpers and loops and such, there are specific objectives you have to work your way through to complete the level. For example, the first level has you hitting a series of switches to open sewer pipes and drain slime so that you can reach the Chaos Emerald, before moving on to a showdown with the level boss. Mostly you're paddling Sonic around in standard pinball style, but there's some small segments where he can get up and move. If you fall directly between most flippers there's a platform that Sonic will land on, and you have a couple seconds to jump back in to safety before a worm eats you or something otherwise terrible happens. There's also little segments where Sonic has to get up and jump over a wall, or get in a mine cart and ride around for a bit - the platformer style gameplay is very limited but it is there in tiny nibbles.

It's certainly not a bad game, but nothing exciting either. Fans coming in expecting a full length version of what was done in Casino Nights Zone may be dissappointed to see that this is an entirely different experience. The graphics are colorful and basically decent, but far from outstanding. The music is pretty annoying and of fuzzy FM quality, with no resemblance to the better moments of the soundtracks of games like Sonic 3. While the game is not exceptionally difficult, it is a long haul with only three lives granted for the whole thing, and if you don't like learning how to make precision shots you won't get very far in this one because there are continual tiny targets that Sonic has to aim carefully at to proceed. The game also has this generally sluggish feel to it, which is not the Wii emulation but something that was present in the original Genesis release.

If you're looking for a more authentic pinball simulation, you'd be better served by Alien Crush ... this one's really only for hardcore Sonic fans.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video