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August 30, 2013

Mario Pinball Land (Part 1)

Oh, tabarnak... I hate this game. I hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it. Double hate it. LOATHE IT ENTIRELY.

To play such a game, it requires sheer will. It requires patience. It requires strong thumbs and index fingers. More than anything, it takes courage to face such a challenge. It takes flippers, but you know what? It also takes balls. (Mmmmmmwah! Good night everybody!) No no no, steel balls, as in, PINBALLS!

Joke aside, though, the review today is Mario Pinball Land, and just judging by this introduction, you already guessed, dear reader, that this won't be a walk in the park. No, it's Hell in Game Boy Advance game form. It's a thumb destroyer. A horrible creation that led to the uselessness of many machines. A picture of its box art should accompany the description of “frustrating” in every dictionary.

You think I'm exaggerating? No, I'm not. Not this time. I absolutely HATE this game, and here are all the reasons why.

First off, if you were Shigeru Miyamoto and you were told “Hey! We've got plans for a new Mario game on the GBA! It's Mario... in a pinball world!” Would your answer be:
A: Let's go with it!
B: Uh... let's try...
C: Meh, it doesn't sound like such a good idea...
D: Pinball games? Leave that to Sonic, for God's sake!

Seems the answer that really came out was A or B. Thus, we get a game that consists only of a pinball game all the way through. Oh, don't worry: There's a story alright.

Sounds peaceful till it gets unnerving.
Mario and Peach are enjoying a nice date at the local Fun Park. It's got roller coasters, games, a haunted house... Why don't we stay there? Anyway, the big attraction this year is called the Air Cannon, but to ride it you must first get into a machine with an absurd function: The Spherasizer (really? That's the best name you could come up with?). It transforms into a ball anyone who steps in the machine. Afterward, the balled character is put in a cannon and tossed in the distance. Sounds safe...

So, it's Princess Peach's turn. She steps in the machine, is turned into a ball, then she's put in the canon... However, before the Toads could activate the cannon, a group of baddies appear in the Fun Park, maneuver the cannon so that Peach will end up in Bowser's castle... and they shoot. As a result, ball-Peach winds up captured again. It's up to Mario to save her again, but instead of going on his regular adventure, what does he do? In a moment of sheer stupidity, he jumps in the machine too! Turned into a ball, he is then put in the cannon, and tossed away. And then his adventure begins. Do I even need to explain why this makes Mario the biggest idiot in this game? Seriously? He decides to do the same thing as Peach to go save her?

And sadly, this game is canon to the series.

First of all, he starts rolling in the Fun Park; there's not much yet in there, so Mario can just hit the cannon and jump in it. This leads us to the level selection screen. Bowser's castle is unavailable for the moment, however Mario can choose between the Fun Park, the Grassy Greens, the Shifting Sands and the Frosty Frontier. Quite a lot of choice... Let's start with the Grassy Greens.

Before I continue with the story, here's basically how this game works. You use the flippers by pressing the portable console's buttons. You must press Left on the directional pad or L for the left flipper, and either A or R for the right flipper. You press B to use an item. Sounds simple enough. However, if you play only with the L and R buttons, or with the Left and A buttons, you will probably never switch to the other playing option; and since you always keep the fingers on the same buttons, your fingers ARE gonna hurt after a while, Worse even, you might get tendinitis by playing this game for too long. Trust me, I know; this is the only game that ever caused me to have tendinitis in my fingers. And don't think your thumbs are safe with the A and L buttons, either.

It gets worse: This game is extremely frustrating, and as a result you might press the buttons harder in a fit of rage. As a result, the L and R buttons could some day end up breaking under your fingers. Wanna know how I know that? BECAUSE IT HAPPENED TO ME. I blame this game for breaking those buttons on my Game Boy Advance SP, and maybe on one of my Nintendo DS. Remember when I said at the beginning that this game has broken many machines? That's what I meant.

Just looking at this brings back bad souvenirs.
So, Mario lands in Grassy Greens, where he is greeted with Goombas, beehives, and... Star-numbered doors. Those are a staple of the Mario series, starting in Super Mario 64. The concept has been played with in the later games, such as in Mario Sunshine, and Mario Galaxy (in the latter, you needed a certain number of stars to unlock new galaxies). How many stars are there in this game? Only 35. But trust me, you'll curse for most of those goddamn stars. In order to open the first door, Mario needs one star; so he defeats the nearby Goombas, and this gives him a star.

Another thing about this game: The character's control is ATROCIOUS. Mario is a puny ball who can't move by himself, he can only move thanks to the flippers; however, those are very imprecise, and as a result, Mario is a pain to control. Sometimes he'll just miss an enemy by a tiny bit; other times you'll want him to go somewhere, but you'll miss and he'll go somewhere else! That's not all; if he falls out from a board, he'll end up on the preceding one, and if he goes down one screen, there's a risk he'll keep going through the flippers. The only way to truly die in this game is to fall between the flippers at the entrance of the level, so you can spend a LOT of time playing without losing a life, but as a result the game is also frustrating as Hell.

Mario finally has one Star, so he enters the door labeled “1” and he accesses a new screen; in that screen, a shaking beehive, two Goombas, a windmill and a switch. In order to enter the windmill, Mario must press the switch first. Not too difficult, alright. However, he must be careful not to hit the beehive, or three bees will come out. Those are nasty bees; when they spot Ball Mario, they'll go after him and sting him, which will send him rolling around the field.

Mario finally gets in the windmill... and he's facing a huge Piranha Plant named... named... named... Petey Piranha? You're kidding, right? This is NOT Petey Piranha! Hell no! Petey Piranha has a large crown of petals, a protruding belly, he's walking on two roots and he has arms, too! And he barely even has a neck! The Petey in this game is not like this at all: A Piranha Plant head with just small petals, joined to a spherical belly by a thin neck, and that spherical body doesn't even have legs! That's NOT Petey Piranha, look!

What he looks like EVERYWHERE ELSE!

"Petey" in this game

Die, you Petey knockoff!

Whatever, this plant is pretty nasty, and it is in the middle of a circular room. It will follow Mario's movements, so Mario must spin around the room a few time and then hit the plant's body while it's not looking; because if Mario aims at the body while the plant is watching, it will catch Mario in its mouth and spit him out between the flippers.

Once the boss is defeated, it drops a key behind. When that key is grabbed, Mario gets information that a statue in Bowser's castle yard has been activated. Also, a cannon appears on the very first screen of the Grassy Greens, replacing a Question Block. After you hit the corresponding statue in Bowser's yard, a red switch appears in the boss' room; hitting that switch will cause eight Red coins to appear all over the level, and Ball Mario has 99 seconds to pick them all up. This awards him a star. Of course, sometimes the red coins are in locations that require more stars.

This time, the Kleptoes won't steal
your hat.
Mario jumps in the cannon at the beginning of the level and then heads to, say, Shifting Sands. Land of the Pokeys, Spinies and Kleptoes. After passing the first screen, Mario reaches a place with two sphinx statues; he hits the two statues repeatedly to make a pyramid come out of the ground, and then enters by the entrance; there, a little puzzle involving stone switches, holes and pillars awaits him. He goes down to the first underground floor, then to the second, where King Tut awaits him.

King Tut? Isn't that Tutankoopa from Paper Mario? Holy cow, it looks like a cooler version of Tutankoopa from Paper Mario! A 3D version, too! Just take a look. Those two are really, really similar! This battle is godawful, too; First you must activate the boss, then you can only attack him while he is floating... and you can only attack it while you are Big Ball Mario. And in this level, the only way to become Big Ball Mario is to hit the special obelisks behind King Tut. Oh wait, that's not the worst part... While King Tut is floating, he will unleash a ball of energy that will turn you into Tiny Ball Mario when it hits you. It will be even harder to hit the obelisks while you are afflicted with this condition... Anyway, once it's done and the star key is picked up, the statue activates in Bowser's yard, the cannon appears, and you can go to another place.

And King Tut. He's so more awesome.

Tutankoopa from Paper Mario...

Penguins are always funny.
Now we are in the Frosty Frontier. Shy Guys on ice skates have fun here, and so do snowball-tossing snowmen. The second room of this level has four penguins and a large piece of ice. As much as I hate this game, the penguins are hilarious. When you hit them, they fall on their bum and slide around, which is comedy gold after you spend a few hours screaming at this game. However, they're not your main concern here; no, Mario must instead push the block of ice further and onto some weaker ice. Luckily, that's not too much of a pain in the ice. This will create a hole, and then Ball Mario will be able to jump in the hole and fall underwater.

He winds up underwater, in very cold waters might I add. Three treasure chests, two Cheep-Cheeps, and an abandoned ship. The place is already crowded enough, but Mario still has to hit all three treasure chests. This causes the ship to fall a little, so that Mario can enter it. And when he gets in the ship, he's greeted by a freaking huge Cheep-Cheep... with spikes on its belly. Oh God, not that boss.

Puffs: The Mario version of Jaws.
The problem is that this stupid fish cannot be hit as it is now. However, there's an endless supply of Bob-Ombs held behind the small doors on each side of the back wall on this screen. The strategy against this boss is really difficult: Hit the doors at the back of the rooms and toss a Bob-Omb at the Cheep-Cheep. It will then become huge, like a puffer-fish... Oh, I get it! It's a Puffer-Cheep! Anyway, the good news is that you can then hit it with Mario or with another bomb to harm it. The bad news is that it will then go back to normal, and it will also summon two smaller Puffer-Cheeps, babies maybe. Lather, rinse, repeat. And curse all the way through, too!

My thumbs and my index fingers hurt right now. Please, I must take a break here. I'll just cover what I said so far: The game is awful, the controls, while they do work well, don't help the fact that the character is almost uncontrollable. You'll be pained trying to toss Ball Mario in the right places, not only because of the luck factor, but also because there could be an enemy or some object blocking your way that will send you THE OTHER WAY. I'm not even covering all the additional traps the devious programmers have inserted to make your play-through a goddamn living Hell. Just... come back Monday for the next part. I'll go get some band-aids.