Super Mario Ball

Mario themed pinball action.

The Lowdown

Pros: Lots of goals to complete in five different worlds with pick up and play appeal

Cons: A shaky physics engine.

Purchase at Play-Asia
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.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1

The game has some Japanese menus, but nothing that will distract from gameplay.

US Bound?

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.