Pros: Lots of goals to complete in five different worlds with pick up
and play appeal
Cons: A shaky physics engine.
Super Mario Ball takes gamers back to the good old days of pinball action
where you had a moving ball to hit with two flippers. Back to the times
when points were what mattered. Although, Super
Mario Ball isn't as simple as a standard pinball machine. Similar to
Sega's Sonic Spinball, released for the Sega Genesis, Super Mario Ball
has different worlds with different goals to complete in each world.
Just like in Super Mario 64, the goal of the game is for Mario to
collect all of the stars scattered through the multi-tiered pinball
stages. Stars aren't sitting around for you to hit, instead you
must make them appear. By knocking all of the goombas or shy guys out of
a stage a star could appear. Sometimes it is hitting the same target
over and over again to make a star come out. The game isn't exactly
clear on how to find stars because part of the fun comes from
exploration of the worlds. There are five different worlds to conquer.
Within the five stages you can pick between a desert level, ice stage
and Bowser's castle. Five worlds isn't much, but Nintendo's clever level
design makes each world feel much larger than it is.
Picked up from Pokemon Pinball are the multi-tiered stages. You start at
the bottom of the stage, if Mario falls in a hole here you lose a life.
You'll notice at the top there are doors with a star marking on them.
You need stars to open the doors up. If you have at least the number of
stars as indicated on the door, you can hit the door to open it and
enter another area. Each new area has new targets to hit and new things
to discover. Another luxury you have when you're higher up is that if
you fall you move one screen down instead of losing a life. Nintendo and
Fuse Games made sure that you can't possibly get enough stars to unlock
all the doors in a level. This means players will need to migrate to
different worlds to find more stars and unlock new areas. Ultimately,
finding stars is only so much of the challenge. You'll need to find star
keys that are hidden within the stages to unlock Bowser's Castle. Star
Keys can be obtained by defeating large bosses. One of the first bosses
you'll meet is Petey Piranha Plant, who will try and eat Mario as you
attack him. If he grabs Mario he'll spit him out of the screen, so
you'll have to start the fight all over again.
To conquer the challenges presented and save lives there are a number of
items to help you out. The first and most useful item is the pipe. At
the start of each screen there is a blue pipe in between the two
flippers. This pipe helps prevent Mario from falling out of the stage
and losing a life. However, the warp pipe doesn't prevent all possible
deaths. You can still fall out by rolling out when you're lifting a
flipper up. A Yoshi egg puts the game into multiball mode where you have
both Mario to hit and the Yoshi egg. Multiball isn't too useful because
as soon as you switch screens you lose the other ball. Items can be
found by hitting the question mark boxes throughout the stages or by
purchasing them with coins from Toad's shop. Coins appear after you hit
an enemy. If you hit two enemies at the same time you'll score more
points and a blue coin will appear. Blue coins give you more bonus
points than your standard yellow coin.
Compared to your standard table top pinball machine there is a lot to do
in Super Mario Ball. Also compared to your standard pinball machine,
Super Mario Ball's physics engine doesn't make too much sense. First of
all the flippers accurately hit Mario. If Mario is hit at the tail end
of a flipper he should move at a certain angle, this angle should be
different if he's hit say in the middle of the flipper. In some levels,
like the boss ones, Mario won't move at a different angle. Other times
the problem is worse because it seems that Mario moves randomly after
hit. The physics engine's true flaws can be seen in how Mario loops
around the top of the screen even though there is nothing to keep him
from falling. Without a good physics engine, a pinball simulator can
only be so good.
Fuse Games took elements of legendary Nintendo developer Rare's style.
Super Mario Ball uses Rare's tradition of pre-rendered 3D graphics.
You'll see all of the familiar Mario icons like Mario, Bowser and all of
the enemies in 3D. Another graphical feat is the clever use of Mode 7
scaling. As enemies move up they're scaled down to give players a sense
of distance. The five different worlds are packed with pre-rendered
vivid scenery. You have a wide palette of bright colors like you would
expect in any Mario game. The music in the game consists of mellowed out
familiar Mario songs. Nintendo used plenty of sound bytes of Mario
shouting things like "It's a me Mario" and "Wahoo!"
Compared to other GBA games out there Super Mario Ball doesn't have the
same amount of gameplay hours. Even with all of the stars to find, five
worlds isn't much to conquer. Nintendo had the idea of a pick up and
play game with Super Mario Ball, a concept that went the way of the
dinosaurs. Even though it may not have the depth as the deep strategy
RPGs out there, Super Mario Ball is a still fun action game to play.
Gamers looking for something easy to get into or gamers who liked
Pokemon Pinball should look no further than Super Mario Ball.
The game has some Japanese menus, but nothing that will distract from
Super Mario Ball has been announced in North America.
Even though it has flaws and lacks long term value, Mario Ball is a
fun action game that can be enjoyed by anyone at anytime.