ArtePiazza is better recognised for its work on RPGs like Enix's Dragon Quest series and more recently Koei's Wii RPG Opoona, so it's interesting that their freshman effort on DSiWare is a marriage of video pinball and shooter called Pinball Attack!
There are currently no other pinball games on the Japanese DSiWare service, but even taking that into account this is still a unique offering: unlike even the most fantastic video pinball games you're not actually playing on a table. Instead the background and enemies are moving by as if you were playing a vertically scrolling shooter, only in place of a ship at the bottom of the screen you have two flippers and need to use pinball skills to launch an orange ball at enemies and bosses.
Visually there's no question that this is an ArtePiazza game; the enemy designs all have a googly-eyed look that strongly echos that of Opoona's monsters. The large, colourful sprites and detailed backgrounds look fantastic on the larger screens of the DSi LL, though there are a few noticeable glitches like the ball appearing to stop several pixels above the flipper supports instead of contacting them when it falls back after being launched at a foe. The full screen real estate of the DSi is used, with game data being limited to only a couple of gauges and your score.
Gameplay-wise it's much like playing video pinball. Your ball is automatically released from a capsule floating about partway up the screen and you hit the ball at various creatures that populate each level before facing off against a massive boss. Some enemies are dispatched with a single hit and others require multiple strikes. The scrolling playfield often takes the form of a corridor complete with bendy walls that open into chambers containing bonus coins, the occasional pinball kicker or bumper/power-up here and there.
The controls are quite basic: left/up/right on the d-pad controls your left flipper and Y/X/A controls your right flipper. Down on the d-pad or pressing the B button will activate an energy barrier between your flippers. At first this simply appears to be a means of stopping your ball from going out, but by activating it with only one flipper up you can actually cause your ball to bounce back in a wider arc than is capable with the flippers alone thanks to less-than-realistic flipper-ball physics.
This comes into play most during boss fights which will require the player to direct the ball around obstacles to hit vulnerable parts of the boss. The barrier has a finite amount of energy displayed in a gauge in the lower-left corner of the screen and only starts out at fifty percent capacity; destroying enemies and the odd power-up will replenish it.
If you've played a decent amount of video pinball you won't find the going overly tough, though it isn't a walk in the park. Taking down bosses can be fairly challenging and your ball can get crushed between moving objects (like the claws of the crab boss) or between bending walls and your flipper supports; in addition to going out between your flippers. The fact that the orange Flubber ball is a bit bouncier than conventional steel will take a little getting used to, as will the angle the ball takes coming off your flippers; noted earlier.
The choice of starting with five or ten balls might seem both limited and excessive, but with four themed levels (water, desert, jungle, space) ending in boss fights and then a final boss rush to complete in a single sitting (suspend play is supported if you need to close your DSi to take a break), you may need every extra ball you can find!
Local leader boards complete with initials provide your replay incentive (the top ten are recorded for future boasting), though being able to play any of the levels on their own would have been appreciated.
For 500 points you're getting a fun take on video pinball accompanied by an excellent soundtrack and it's hard to complain about that.