Metroid Prime Pinball Hands-On

We spend a couple of hours knocking Samus around with flippers as we check out Fuse Games' upcoming pinball game for the DS.

Video game characters are a competitive bunch, all right. The days of arguing about who is composed of more pixels and who has the most animations might be long gone, but the fights over polygon counts, love interests, and special attacks don't appear to be going anywhere soon. Neither, for that matter, does the argument over who has appeared in the best pinball game--Mario entered the fray with Fuse Games' Mario Pinball Land in October last year, and now the UK-based developer is looking to stir things up again with Samus' appearance in Metroid Prime Pinball. We recently had an opportunity to check out a near-finished version of the game, and we're pleased to report that Samus' pinball debut does just as good a job of incorporating features from her traditional outings as Mario's did last year.

Samus Aran has something of an advantage over the world's favorite plumber when it comes to pinball, of course, because while Mario could certainly be described as rotund, he certainly isn't spherical like Samus' "morph ball" form. Predictably, Samus will spend most of her time in Metroid Prime Pinball as a ball, although there are a number of minigames in which she'll stand up to shoot at enemies that appear on the table or to wall-jump up the small bonus levels that appear from time to time. There are two tables for you to choose from the first time you play Metroid Prime Pinball, titled Tallon Overworld and Pirate Frigate. The former has the appearance of an industrialized planet surface complete with changing weather conditions (well rain, anyway), while the latter resembles a no-frills spaceship interior.

Both of the starting tables boast plenty of ramps, bumpers, and other targets for you to aim Samus at, and you can expect the requisite array of multiball and score multiplier bonuses to be joined by a number of special features that would be impossible on an actual pinball table. The most obvious of these are undoubtedly Samus' wall-jumping and combat minigames, which you'll unlock from time to time as you complete various missions on your chosen table. The wall-jumping minigame doesn't really amount to much, as it simply requires that you hit the left and right shoulder buttons to make Samus jump between two walls until she reaches the collectible artifact at the top of the screen. The combat minigames are a little more interesting, though, and see our heroine assuming her human form and standing above the flippers to shoot at enemy pirates, bugs, and such that move toward her from the top of the table. You'll control Samus' direction of fire simply by using the left and right shoulder buttons to rotate her on the spot, and you'll use one of the face buttons to fire any missiles that you've collected.

You'll invariably want to save any missiles you collect for Metroid Prime Pinball's boss battles, which take place on specially designed "Phazon Mines" and "Phendrana Drifts" tables that Samus is able to travel to after completing certain objectives on the regular tables. The two boss tables play quite differently from each other, not only because their layouts have very little in common, but also because the bosses you'll be up against require slightly different strategies to defeat. The Phazon boss, for example, is vulnerable to Samus' combat mode attacks and missiles, while the Phendrana boss is most easily defeated using Samus' morph ball form and its power bomb attack. After defeating a boss, its table will be unlocked for single-table play from the start menu. Our version of Metroid Prime Pinball appears to contain a single-cartridge multiplayer game and two additional tables (for a total of six) entitled Artifact Temple and Impact Crater, but we've been unable to access them at this time.

Metroid Prime Pinball's visuals are a real treat, and its theme tune and sound effects are equally pleasing. We look forward to bringing you more information on Metroid Prime Pinball as its October 24 release date closes in.

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