“Chalk and cheese” is a phrase usually used when comparing two objects of juxtaposing qualities. Such a phrase could be applied to the titles “Metroid Prime” and “pinball”, so it's quite a compliment to developers “Fuse Games” that it merged these two contrasting entities into an enjoyable DS game.
Metroid Prime Pinball is a neat little game that takes many of the landscapes from Metroid Prime on GameCube and shapes them into manageable and attractive pinball tables with none of the original character lost. As pinball tables these levels play exceedingly well, mainly due to some excellent physics programming: the ball responds exactly as you would expect it to as it bounces between various objects on the table.
Being a Metroid game the ball is Samus Aran in Morph Ball mode, a touch similar to Sonic Spinball where you played as Sonic in his spin attack form. You control the flippers with the L and R triggers and the action takes place over the two screens, and while it can be a little nauseating at first watching the action pass between the top and bottom screens, it becomes easier the longer you spend with the game.
Included in the title are several main playing modes: multimission, single mission and multiplayer. The multiplayer mode is a simple high-score battle between eight players which is fairly fun and can be enjoyed with just one cartridge thanks to the DS console's Download Play functionality.
Multi-mission is the main mode of play where you will come across various challenges as you rack up scores and travel to new environments. These can then be used in the Single Mission which is essentially a high-score challenge on a single table.
Graphically Metroid Prime Pinball is excellent, somewhat surprising considering the obvious limitations of a pinball title. It’s the little touches that make this game so appealing, such as the rainstorm that randomly occurs on the Tallon Overworld table, reminiscent of the original Metroid Prime. It has a certain nostalgic charm that probably makes this game essential for the fans of the series, though it's accessible for everyone nonetheless.
It wouldn't be a Metroid game without some huge bosses but don’t worry, Fuse Games has packed in most of your favourites including Meta Ridley. Beating these enemies is a pretty simple case of hitting them hard and consistently with the ball, but in Multimission mode there are times when Samus will stand up and fire at her enemies with her plasma rifle, adding an extra dimension to the game and some much needed variation to a genre that could be considered monotonous.
The main annoying niggle with Metroid Prime Pinball is that there is no real tilt button; instead you bump the table by dragging your thumb across the touch screen. While this works to spare you when your ball is heading toward the gutter, it’s tricky to get used to and a considerable distance for your thumb to travel. You become accustomed to it, but use of the D-Pad for tilt would have perhaps been a better option.
Packaged with Metroid Prime Pinball is a neat little rumble pack that fits in the Game Boy Advance cartridge slot. Unfortunately it pokes out a little of the DS Lite which doesn’t look entirely neat but it gives a pretty decent feedback considering its size, and of course doesn't work on the DSi, DSi XL or 3DS consoles. While it’s not an entirely noticeable rumble – more a subtle vibration – it works perfectly for the type of game in question and adds a little something to the experience.
Metroid Prime Pinball was never going to be a groundbreaking game due to the confinements of its genre, and it can get repetitive with essentially not much to offer but hitting a ball with a couple of flippers. However if you are of the “old-school” gaming mentality whereby beating your personal best scores is the main factor of replay value, you will get more than your money's worth out of this game.