(Game Boy Advance)

Mario Pinball Land (Game Boy Advance)

Game Review

Mario Pinball Land Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Christopher Ingram

A flipping good time?

Our beloved hero Mario has starred in a multitude of sports throughout his long career: golf, tennis, hockey, soccer, basketball, go-karts, etc. It seems there’s hardly anything the famous plumber can’t do — even going so far as winning a gold medal at the Olympics against his long-time rival, Sonic the Hedgehog. Nintendo has taken us through all sorts of alternative titles with our beloved hero throughout the years, and back in 2004, Mario took on another of our favourite pastimes: pinball. Instead of going the easy route of creating a few Mario-inspired pinball tables, Fuse Games and Nintendo used the wonderful worlds of past Super Mario games to craft another Mario Land, but this time around its played pinball-style. Sound a bit crazy? It should, but it’s crazy in that charmingly Nintendo way that only they can pull off.

Upon starting this pinball journey, Mario and friends set out for a fun day at the carnival, but the good times come to an abrupt end when Princess Peach slips and falls into a cannon. To everyone’s surprise, the cannon is operated by goombas, who quickly proceed to blast her off into Bowsers castle; capturing her once again. The only way for Mario to save his lovely princess in this wacky pinball world, is to use a strange contraption to transform himself into a pinball and bounce his way through the multiple worlds; collecting the necessary stars and keys to gain access to Bowsers castle, and save his princess once again.

The games scenario should already sound familiar to anyone who’s played a Mario platformer since Super Mario 64, as the game uses the exact same formula to progress the story. Instead of running and jumping through each world to collect the stars, you’ll instead be bouncing a balled-up Mario through tiered levels with pinball flippers. Each world starts off with a one-screened level (table), with pinball flippers at the bottom of the screen — just as would be found on an actual pinball table — with a set objective to complete to gain a Star (e.g. kill all enemies). By gaining Stars you’ll gain access to locked doors at the top of the screen to progress deeper into the world. This formula continues until the world’s boss is reached, and upon defeat, they’ll hand over one of the keys needed to unlock the gate to Bowser's Castle. If you’ve got enough skill to claim all the keys from each of the five worlds’ bosses, you’ll be able to put your pinball skills to the ultimate test against the Koopa King himself, Bowser.

Each of the five worlds found in the game are lovingly crafted upon those found in other Super Mario titles and each one is filled with enemies that fans will instantly recognise: Goombas, Koopa Troopas and Shy Guys are just a few of the enemies found in the game. The levels are much different than one might expect too; instead of having tables with flashing lights and spiralling lanes like an actual pinball table, standard Super Mario obstacles (e.g. green pipes, snowmen, pyramids, etc.) are used to bring the tables to life instead. This gives the game a unique Mario feel, and one that’s not unlike playing any other Mario platformer, especially with the Star collecting and boss battles. A few extras like hidden warp zones and timed red coin challenges are thrown into the mix to add a bit of replay value as well.

A few of the worlds expose Mario to various elements that affect his ball speed as well (e.g. when underwater Mario rolls much slower than normal), and while it’s definitely a nice touch to the gameplay, the game already has a ‘bouncy’ feel to it that's likely to frustrate pinball purists. This new feel to a pinball game takes a few minutes to adjust to, as the game's ball physics are a far cry from the way a steel pinball reacts on an actual pinball table, but it’s a fitting style for this type of game design. The one questionable gameplay change here is the omission of a tilt feature – standard on any pinball table or game — meaning that you’ll have to get used to letting Mario roll up an extended flipper to lose speed so, that you can try and catch him on the opposite flipper to gain a precision shot when needed. You are completely free to bounce Mario around nonchalantly, but by doing so you’ll find the game more frustrating than fun, as you’ll often mess up and let Mario slip between the flippers, dropping down to the previous level and resetting the above stage. A blue pipe power-up — among a few others — can be used to block the space between the flippers to help alleviate this issue, but it only last around 20 seconds, meaning you’ll need to master the precision shot technique for maximum enjoyment here.

What makes this trip so enjoyable, though, is its presentation. Mario Pinball Land is a Game Boy Advance title that could easily be mistaken for a DS title: the worlds are sketched with bright, vivid colours and the enemy sprites pop off the screen with full 3D character modelling – ingeniously made possible with the use of an isometric camera angle that doesn’t need to pan around. The bosses are especially spectacular, as they nearly take up the entire screen. Audio, while good, isn’t quite as spectacular as the graphics though. Straying away from the tunes of Mario’s past, carnival themed loops are used that fit the game's theme, but the track loops are a bit on the short side, which has a tendency to get repetitive during extended playtime. It’s a small gripe, and one that’s obviously due to cartridge limitations, but it’s there nonetheless.


What could have easily been a quick cash-in pinball title with a Mario theme slapped on turns out to be a completely unique way to experience the wonderful worlds from the Super Mario series we all know and love. Hardcore pinball fanatics will likely find little to enjoy here, but for Nintendo fans, tracking down this spin-off from Mario’s ever-growing catalogue is definitely worth your time. Even with its few flaws, Mario Pinball Land is as much a treat on the eyes as it is on the thumbs, and once again proves there's nothing Mario can't do.

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User Comments (49)



afroevan said:

Although I enjoyed the game for a short while I found the physics in this title very sub-par. Only compared to Pokemon Pinball Ruby/Sapphire which is by far a superior game, the physics are flawless in that game, as is the amount to unlock through persistent play through. I wish they'd continued that series to Diamond/Pearl... Maybe one day we'll see an amazing sequel on 3DS eShop or full retail... POKEMON PINBALL - BLACK/WHITE... Make it happen Nintendo :)



SuperSpank said:

A 7? I found the gameplay too much luck based. While thats normal for pinball, the pokemon and metroid pinball games are really less luck based. And the music is (as you stated) really repetive. But i found it so annoying that i turned the sound off a lot. Oh, and the Boo Boss is way, waaay too easy. I will give this a 5. But, oh well tastes differ.



pntjr said:

...Those graphics?
For GBA?
They're better than DS graphics!
For graphics, this deserves a 8!



ueI said:

I didn't really like this. It is just too difficult to control Mario for me to recommend. It also annoyed me that each world must be completed in the same playthrough to unlock Bowser's Castle. "Saving" it does not save the progress you made collecting keys.




I would like this as an ambassador game. I remember this. Agree with the score but could've been done a lot better. I wouldn't mind a Nintendo themed 3DS game with Mario, Samus, Kirby et al.



TKOWL said:

I've never really enjoyed this game. I've played about two hours of it, and most of it is a broken mess. This is what Fuse Games thought Petey Piranha looked like:
That's hideous.

@pntjr Those FMVs look terrible in motion.



Late said:

I like this game but the pinball part doesn't work all that great. It's very hard to hit in the middle where the boss is (well, not every boss) and you only end up going in circle around him.



47drift said:

I actually distinctly remember hating this. It had the worst physics engine of any pinball game I can name.



Slapshot said:

Thanks guys for the comments and it's very expected that the opinions are very mixed.

Either you figure out how to stop Mario on the flippers to gain control shots or it feels like a broken game.

I recommend anyone who can to give the game another shot and try this method. You just might find the game really enjoyable if you do.



Yasume said:

I remember this being pretty decent. I hope that this is one of the 10 ambassador titles.



Sneaker13 said:

I never understood the hate, I loved this game and still have the original cartridge.



Punny said:

This game is okay. Most of the time, the flippers sent Mario in circles whenever I played it. I really disliked how whenever you turned off the game without saving, all of your data would be erased. That's lame. The graphics are nice, but the music isn't very Mario-y. I hated the ending, too. Not the worst Mario spin-off, but not the best pinball game.



DestinyMan said:

I was surprised to see a 7, since I've seen people call this game one of Mario's few bad games. I would disagree, though, because the graphics are very impressive for a GBA game and it was nice to play now and then. I thought the physics were hard and I never got to Bowser, but I still had fun with it and I wouldn't mind at all if this becomes one of the five secret GBA Ambassador titles.



BluTyGer said:

A seven? I remember hating this game.
I still have the game cartridge so maybe I'll give it another try.



Luffymcduck said:

Worst. Physics. Engine. Ever. Also the worst Mario ever (OK, Mario is Missing is worse).
A seven? I immedetialy thought it would be 4. I´m so glad that I didn´t pay 50€ for this in 2004. I tried it finally this year and man it sucked. Graphics were about the only thing that was good in this game. DS´s Metroid Prime Pinball is much better.



Blaze said:

I still have the original cart, and, although I know the game is pretty bad (Bad as in 6-7 scoring material) it's so much fun! I still play this fairly often on my DS Lite! :-)



WanderFan91 said:

This game got a much higher score than it deserved, imo
But to each their own, I suppose; personally, I hate it



warioswoods said:

I enjoyed this one, not sure what there is to dislike. The physics are fine so long as you don't think of it as a pinball simulation... it's more of an arcade game using flippers.



emayer said:

This game was absolutely atrocious, and incredibly frustrating. The idea of having an interconnected pinball world is kind of neat, but it just didn't work in practice. That being said, the graphics were quite impressive for the GBA.



Slapshot said:

Just to give you guys an idea, I started off playing this game disappointed and confused as to why the games physics were they way they are and struggled with gaining precision shots - just as many of you.

But, I realized that the curved walls of the levels and the fact that the physics are not actual steel ball physics, allowed me to rolled the ball up a flipper and stop it on the other side to get constant precision shots, much like using tilt on on actual table or pinball game, it really changed my perception of the game. It became much easier to work my way up the levels and defeat bosses, and I became charmed with the games worlds and theme.



Henmii said:

Nice review! I always found the game to be very good looking, but I never bought it because of a very bad review I read. There they said the physics totally destroyed the fun.

Anyway, one day this will be on the 3DS vc (I guess). And when the time has come, I'll download it. Also: Nice box-art!



RantingThespian said:

It looks ok. Not the best, but not the worst. A sequel along the lines of Metroid Prime Pinball would be awesome.



NeoShinobi said:

For whatever reasons that I can't quite remember, I really, really disliked this game.



StarDust4Ever said:

Why all the criticizm? I thought the game was absolutely genius. The game only gets maddeningly difficult when you try to go against the final Bowser boss, or tne upper rooms in the dungeon levels. Only thing I really found frustrating was it dropped the ball strait down to the bottom level whenever you lost the Bowser fight.

Overall, 8/10

And yes, I used the flippers to cradle the ball a lot. It is super easy timing to aim your shots that way.

@5. uel: It does save your game. You go back to the title screen. Turn it off and you resume at any time. When you resume a game, it deletes your game save; this is to prevent savestate abuse. If you power off mid-game, you will lose your progress - everytime. YOU MUST RESAVE TO TITLE SCREEN BEFORE YOU POWER OFF TO KEEP YOUR PROGRESS. Kirby's Pinball for Game Boy Classic worked exactly the same way. In fact, I own the manuals of both games are they are formatted almost identically.



StuffyStuff said:

Anyone remember the Mario pinball machine? If I'm gonna play pinball, it's gotta be with all the flashing lights and sounds.



Teh-Ray said:

I never really understood the hate for this game, aside from the fact that your saves were only made with suspended saves ( As both PunnyGuy and Stardust had pointed out ) it's a really fun game.

I guess if it's not the same as everything else, it's an awful game. Which is weird, because I considered Mario fans to be a little more open-minded than that since Mario's used a lot in differing gamestyles.

By the way, making it all the way to Bowser, saving it and powering off only to find out that your nephew had powered it on, loaded your save and then turned off the game without saving, resulting in all your data lost, is not fun.



MetroidMasher17 said:

I really hate it when I remember playing a game but I forgot where. I don't know if my cousin let me play it or if I bought it and later sold it.

But from what I remember, the game wasn't horrible. It was actually quite fun.



DrCruse said:

The physics were horrible. End of story.

I think that if it hadn't been a Mario-themed game, it would've scored more around 4/10.



mushroomer said:

I bought this game recently because I was on this ds pinball craze.. Metroid Pinball, Pinball Pulse, .. which were great games but then this purchase was a disaster. I hated the physics. You flip the flipper and the ball just goes in some random direction. that is horrible. its like if you wanted to pull the baseball and you swing early, and the ball goes to the opposite field. over and over. i wonder how i even got as far as i did in it and WHY i even played it for as long as i did. Dont care if you love mario stuff, i do not recommend it under any reasons.unless one enjoys wasting money and time.



Bones00 said:

I really enjoyed this game in it's original time on the GBA. Unfortunately, my copy had some battery defect. So occasionally, I'd lose all my save data. I hope this eventually comes to the 3DS VC.



Benja_Mii_n said:

I have completely completed this Game mind when you do this Your overall score is saved and You start the Game from the beginnig again. No stars No Coins no High Score.That you used to have before completing your last Game.



Mattiator said:

Good god, I remember this game. I remember trying it out on an emulator and trying to come to grips with just how bad the physics were.



Giygas_95 said:

I can't stand this game. I guess because I really wanted to finish it, but it was just too hard to finish. And that's coming from someone who normally chooses the hardest difficulty in any game. Often times I wanted to save and continue later, but I feel like I remember that sometimes it would save my progress, and other times I would save, but when I came back, it made me start all over. However, I LOVED Metroid Pinball on the DS.

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