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September 2, 2013

Mario Pinball Land (Part 2)

Part 1 is here.

So... I spent many hours without playing a video game, and now I'm back for this Saw-style torture for the fingers. Welcome back to this review of Mario Pinball Land.
Looks like he's smiling. Mario, don't
smile! This will destroy you!

A little bit of explanation about the save files of this game. This game doesn't have a simple saving method: You can save only when you press Start. When you do so, you are given two choices: “Continue”, which will resume your current game, or “Save & Quit”. Literally, you can't save at any moment, you can save only when you stop playing. Of course, the game still redirects you to the title screen when you do that, so it's not a big deal. However, if you turn off your game without saving this way....

YOUR WHOLE SAFE FILE GETS DELETED AND YOU MUST START ALL OVER AGAIN.

Damn! As if you didn't already curse enough at this game!

So, when we stopped last time, Mario had just defeated the Puffer-Cheep and his two-fish army. The star key appeared again, the statue lit up in Bowser's yard, a cannon appeared at the beginning of the level... same old, same old. But... wait a minute... The three themed levels have been completed. Meadow, desert and cold... but what's left? Time to come back to the Fun Park.

Also, I might have forgotten to mention this, but... Each time you enter a room anywhere in the game, the hole between the flippers gets blocked by a blue pipe. This pipe disappears after a while, which makes it easy to fall between the flippers. However, you can buy blue pipes to prevent from falling between the flippers and going back one or more screens at once.

If you killed multiple creatures in a row, then you gained what is known as a blue coin. In many other Mario games of the Mario series, blue coins are worth 5 yellow coins. In here, they're literally their own currency. And you can only use them in one place: That little capital in the Fun Park's entrance. There, a Toad welcomes you with three challenges, each with a certain price in blue coins. For each challenge, you enter an arena with two Yoshi eggs, and your task is to destroy the required number of enemies.
 Push 4 Chain Chomps to the wall at the back of the arena;
Not pictured: Your scream
of frustration.

-Destroy 30 Bullet Bills;
-Activate or blow up 10 Bob-Ombs.
For each of those challenges, your time is limited. After a while, the blue pipe between the flippers disappears, and as a result it's easier to lose the two Yoshi eggs. Without them, the challenge becomes pretty much impossible. Also, when the timer ends, the flippers are deactivated and as a result, Mario inevitably fails the challenge. Well, each of those still earns you a star when you succeed.

STOP SPINNING UNCONTROLLABLY!

However, now the haunted house is open to the public... and to all the pinball heroes out there. Upon entrance, Mario fights four Boos that disappear when you're aiming at them directly; you can only hit them from behind. Also, the only door in there is labeled 10, which means... you need 10 stars to enter. After you go back to the other levels to earn enough stars, Mario can enter the 10-star door... he's now as a ball... on a roller coaster. And then he ends up in another room of the haunted house, where he fights a big Boo... most likely the boss of the level. However, Mario's balance is all screwed up after this roller coaster ride, so in this room, he doesn't stop spinning around. He is EVEN HARDER to control. And you must hit the big Boo's back three times. Hurray... Anyway, once this is done... you know the deal. Star key, statue, switch. Mario can finally enter Bowser's Castle!

So, Mario gets thrown into Bowser's Castle... or rather his yard. Mario first has to aim at every statue in the yard, which will as a result insert the picked up keys in the locks. The four keys together open the castle's main door. Finally, this game is ending! Thank God!

Aw, man! 15? It was almost over!
So, Mario crosses the doorway... And to his great surprise, the door with the smallest number of stars... still requires 15 stars to be opened. You know what that means, folks: More hunting for stars in the other levels. I wished I didn't have to say you're going to curse a lot... but that's true. You are going to curse a lot.

Once five stars are collected, it's finally possible to fight the last boss. What, you want to know what's in the rest of the level? For one door, you need 17 stars, for the other you need 21. Behind each of those, two additional doors that require more stars, and in each of those, you have to fight again a boss you fought previously: Say hello again to Petey, Tut, Puffer and Boo! ...If you manage to reach them, anyway. The rooms leading to those doors contain Koopatrols in their one and only 3D appearance ever, which is cool, as these enemies that originated in the Paper Mario series were pretty badass and we had never seen them in 3D. Neither will we again. That's a shame, because they're really awesome enemies. However, the most important part is that 15-star door. When you enter, what do you see? Bowser himself!
Oh, my... this is gonna be painful. FOR MY THUMBS!
He is the last boss for a damn good reason: He is much more difficult to defeat, and that because you pretty much need luck all the way through. You see, Bowser can jump, and when he lands, your flippers stop working. So you better try not to fall between them, or you'll have to restart the whole fight again! But how do you harm Bowser? In his room, there are two Thwomps. Behind Bowser, there's a switch. The room is a circle, and near each Thwomp, on the wall, there's a pulley system. You have to spin around the room a few times; the pulleys will pull the Thwomps to the ceiling. Then, wait for Bowser to jump... and hit the switch while your enemy's in the air. The Thwomps will cause a mini-earthquake that will destabilize him and he'll fall on his chell. Hit him at that moment! Do that three times and...

Oh no! Bowser rolled into a ball too! But you can use the flippers on him! How to beat him finally? Well, by tossing him at the walls of his own castle, destroying his property, and flinging him in the distance! If Mario didn't fall between the flippers (in which case you must start all over again – AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUGGHHHHHHHHHH!), then you have won the battle. Congratulations! You have beaten the last boss!

At least in this one picture it tries to look cool. It isn't.
Now, if you're an extreme completionist (as in, each time you play a game, you try to get absolutely everything in it before you stop playing), then you'll still have 20 more stars to get. ...Good luck. Anyone rational would just toss this game aside.

So, the next time we see Mario, he's enjoying park rides with Peach again. Yep, that's the official ending. But you know what I think of it? BULLSHIT!

Mam-ma miaaaa... D'oh!
Mario was diagnosed with multiple broken bones, a headache strong like three hangovers, a sunburn caused by the desert, a cold caused by spending too much time in freezing waters... and a serious inferiority complex. The psychologist is still wondering if that last one wasn't there before this game, though.

However, if you believe Mario can take a bit more physical harm, then you will be happy. This game has three ways to make you play even more. The first way is, of course, to get all 35 Stars. This alone is a huge challenge, both for your talent, your console, your fingers and your nerves. But that's not all. In fact, the game works with a score system, which means you can actually try to beat the highest score. In the game, there are pre-programmed rankings, and you can try beating the highest score.

For this, there is a really, really fun – but still incredibly challenging and frustrating – side-mission that you can play. That one doesn't give you a Star, but it gives you an insane amount of points that could let you beat the high score more easily. It's the Yoshi Egg Challenge. You see, you can buy a Yoshi egg at the game's Toad Shop for 20 coins. When you activate this egg in a room that has a Yoshi egg symbol on the ground, a pedestal will rise. Hitting it with the Yoshi egg will cause it to grow by many blocks. Hitting that tower many times awards both coins and a score. When the final piece has reached the ground, you must use the Yoshi egg on it again. As a result, a large golden Yoshi egg will appear, and catching it awards you with a huge amount of points. Also, at the level selection screen, the value of the golden Yoshi egg in that level is shown. I think it increases depending on the number of stars you got, but I'm not sure.

Still not satisfied? You still believe Mario doesn't deserve a damn break from this? Don't panic, the game has something else for you! Indeed, if you defeat Bowser in a regular game, you'll unlock Time Attack mode. In this mode, you must complete a level as quickly as possible. Completing a level means reaching and beating the boss, by the way. All the doors leading to the boss now require zero stars to be opened, so you can reach the boss immediately. So, reach the boss, beat the boss, and when it's done, your time is registered like some sort of high score. And yes, you can try to beat it again. Neat. This applies to all levels, and thus all bosses: Petey Piranha, King Tut, Puffer-Cheep, Big Boo... and even freaking Bowser. In other words, if you want to do absolutely everything in the game, you also have to do this. Enjoy.

Congrats, Mario; you failed. You're lucky it
doesn't happen very often...
All jokes aside, this game sucks. Big time. It really, really, really, really sucks. It's the most frustrating game I've ever played (more frustrating than any other game – including Castle of Shikigami III!). I consider it to be the major culprit for the destruction of the L and R buttons on more than one of the portable consoles I own.

Some stars are diabolical. You need to try a LOT of times to finally lay your hands on them. This makes collecting all Stars especially difficult. Don't get me started on the red coin challenges, which are terrible. Likewise, some puzzle rooms are extremely difficult. Remember King Tut? Yeah, some Stars are as difficult as this. The blue pipe blocking the space between the flippers sometimes disappears too quickly, which turns an already difficult room into another field of curses and screams. The three challenges in the Fun Park's capital are also horribly hard. And- ah, screw this: over half the stars are goddamn difficult to get. I never actually collected all the Stars; the highest I reached was 27.

The graphics are alright for a GBA game, but I do mean “alright”. As in, there are GBA games out there who did better than that. The score system is fine, and the Yoshi Egg Challenges can be fun, but only because the reward is kind of worth it. Time Attack Mode is just the same game without the trouble of collecting stars, and having direct access to all bosses.

Trust me, you curses will sound like
onomatopeias too, you only have to wait.
Arguably, the story does fit the idea behind the game, but like most Mario platformer games, it's more of an excuse plot to explain why the game exists. That's something we saw frequently in the Mario series, so I guess it's not TOO bad. Petey Piranha doesn't look the same at all, and that's kinda lame for one of the most famous Mario bosses ever. However, congratulations to this game for giving us in 3D form a few characters that never had a 3D form before, such as a pharaoh Koopa and the Koopatrols.

Now, the controls... Screw the controls. Screw them. Mario is uncontrollable, the flippers aren't even worth crap, and this awful control system just adds a ton of fake difficulty that really isn't worth it. Most of the time, you'll just wish you are lucky, because this game requires so much luck.

Should you buy this game? No! The mario series has a ton of good games, on every console, so there's always a LOT better than this lame game. This game sucks, it's godawful, never buy it unless you really feel like you aren't cursing enough in your life. I really, really don't recommend it, so if you see it on sale at a game store that sells old games, don't buy it. Unless you're a masochist, in which case I highly recommend, it, because you're gonna suffer.

Tune in this Friday for a much better game. Read you soon.

(Ow, my fingers...)