Pinball may not be the first activity that comes to mind when thinking of possible pastimes for a squirrel, but nevertheless in Momonga Pinball Adventures we see exactly that. You take control of Momo, a Japanese dwarf flying squirrel whose preferred method of travel seems to be being whacked around by pinball flippers, on his quest to save the momonga tribe from the mischievous claws of the owls. To complete this quest you are assisted by Fry the firefly and mentored by a panda called Panda. Is this all making sense?
After a brief cutscene you are guided through a tutorial level, teaching you the basic ideas of what you'll be doing in the levels to come. Touching the GamePad's 'ZL' and 'ZR' buttons (or 'L' and 'R' if you prefer) causes the flipper assigned to that side of the screen to flip up, knocking Momo towards the various collectable stars, targets or goals that you'll be aiming for. If you've ever played any kind of pinball game before you'll be right at home straight away. The controls feel extremely responsive and act just as a real pinball table would.
Things start off pretty basic - "hit the target", "collect the stars" etc. - but soon you'll be travelling through different locations, hitting hidden switches and opening secret rooms. This is where you realise that this isn't just a pinball game: you are on an adventure, just as the title suggests. Later levels ask you to hit switches which open doors on a timer, meaning you have a set time to reach that door before it closes. This isn't a game just about scoring as many points as possible, it's about reaching new destinations.
As you progress through the story new ideas are introduced expanding on the restraints set by being a pinball focused game. Some levels feature 'flying' sections where - using the GamePad's gyro controls - you control Momo flying through the air, collecting more stars before reaching the next section of the level. Other levels feature battles where either you, as Momo, need to crash into an enemy, or Fry, your firefly sidekick, attacks enemies for you if you ring bells that are located around the edge of the arena.
Unfortunately there are only 12 levels in total, three of which are bonus levels. The story can easily be completed within an hour, leaving you with nowhere left to explore. There's plenty of extra content to keep you playing but discovering new things in new levels is definitely a highlight of this game, so to lose that is a shame.
Each one of the nine 'story' levels has five challenges assigned to it. These challenges can only be completed one at a time, meaning that you will have to go back into each level multiple times to beat them. This is a great way to throw some more gameplay on the table but ultimately may leave some players bored of the repetition. There are only so many times you'll want to listen to the voice acting! (Those parts can luckily be skipped if you feel the need).
As well as the challenges the game offers ten achievements to aim for. These vary from tasks such as completing the story mode, beating all challenges, playing a set number of levels and so on. Online leaderboards also make an appearance, giving players yet another reason to keep replaying levels in order to reach the highest scores possible. A nice feature here is that by completing the five challenges in each level you are rewarded with an overall level score bonus, ensuring that the most dedicated players will have an easier time reaching the number one spot on the leaderboard.
A recurring theme here is repetition and this is where the game, in relation to other pinball style games, falls short. Usually when playing a game of pinball the only objective is to score as many points as possible, meaning that doing the same thing over and over again is exactly what you want to be doing to improve your skills. But here you are teased with the promise of something different, only for it to be taken away when the main story is completed. In this respect, the best part of this game turns into being its own worst enemy.
Momonga Pinball Adventures is ultimately a fun experience. It escapes falling into the trap of being 'just another pinball game' by adding different challenges and exploration, rather than sticking to the restrictions of a table. Despite this, the game's HD overhaul isn't enough to stop it feeling like something that would be better suited to a handheld console or a mobile device, and replaying the same 12 levels over and over eventually becomes rather tiring.