Ariel and her young daughter Melody have a brand-new hobby: pinball. Loosely based upon the recent direct-to-video Disney feature, Disney's The Little Mermaid II Pinball Frenzy wraps Ariel and company around gameplay that's taken straight out of Pokémon Pinball. The result is a game that is less varied than its Pokémon predecessor, but one that is also just as satisfying in its own particular way.
The game's two tables--one for Ariel and one for Melody--contain all the flippers, multipliers, bonus targets, and multiballs that people have come to expect from handheld pinball games. In fact, if you've played 3D Ultra Pinball, Kirby's Pinball Land, or Pokémon Pinball, this game should be old hat. However, inasmuch as Pokémon Pinball was about collecting Pokémon, Disney's The Little Mermaid II Pinball Frenzy offers up its own underlying premise: minigames. As you rack up points on either table, you'll earn the chance to visit a number of pinball-based minigames. Successfully complete the task at hand, and you'll unlock the ability to play that minigame from the main menu. There are 16 in all, half of which belong to Ariel's table and the other half to Melody's.
As far as pinball goes, there's nothing really new here, but the Disney premise and forgiving physics should give the game a welcome audience with the 10-and-under crowd. The inclusion of triple multiballs, ball traps, and a variety of other pinball standards gives Little Mermaid II Pinball a more exciting atmosphere than that of Pokémon Pinball, although the lack of Pikachu and friends is a notable downside in this era of Pokémania. The game features four-player support via alternating tables, as well as a battery-powered rumble feature for those who absolutely must feel every tilt and tumble of the table.
Graphically, Little Mermaid II Pinball makes excellent use of the Game Boy Color's abilities. Each table is vibrant and colorful, and each features plenty of familiar Little Mermaid characters, such as Sebastian the crab and Dash the walrus. Little touches, such as the flickering of light bulbs, winking statues, and midtable video animations, give the game a polished touch.
In terms of audio, Nintendo and Left Field made the right decision in re-creating the animated movie soundtrack within its pinball rendition. Each menu, table, and minigame has its own unique background score, many of which are catchy and lighthearted. Sound effects are eerily similar to those found in Pokémon Pinball, which is to say they're plentiful, albeit a bit on the "plinky" side.
Overall, Disney's The Little Mermaid II Pinball Frenzy is little more than a remake of Pokémon Pinball, minus Pikachu and his cohorts, of course. On the other hand, the physics and action level within the game are more in tune with real pinball than that of Nintendo's own Pokémon-inspired offering, and at the same time, they retain a difficulty level that's quite forgiving. If, for whatever reason, you need a non-Pokémon-tainted pinball game, Disney's The Little Mermaid II Pinball Frenzy should suffice just dandily.