Pros:Challenging gameplay, good soundtrack, decent graphics
Cons:A bit short
The Bottom Line: A nifty little Sonic spin-off that's fun and challenging to play - but a little short.
I Would Recommend If You Like: Dragon's Fury, Knights into Dreams, Doctor Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
Recommend this product?
Sonic Spinball is one of the few, and probably the best, Sonic the Hedgehog spin-off games. Of course it's obvious, it Sonic can roll up in a ball like a hedgehog, then why not use him as the ball? This game has a very different atmosphere to other Sonic games and can be enjoyed even by people who aren't fans of the main franchise.
There's not much in the way of story in Sonic Spinball. Dr. Robotnik has made Mt. Mobius his lair, where he is changing the innocent animal inhabitants of Mobius into robot slaves to carry out his bidding. Sonic must make his way through the mountains pinball-style defences, collect the chaos emeralds and save the day!
This is literally the entire story, although to be fair, it's more of a plot than you'll find in many other pinball games, it's just no necessary for a game of this type. It does at least give Sonic a bit of a pretext for being in a giant pinball machine inside a volcano though.
The game only has four levels - but don't worry, the game's so challenging that it does takes a while, and usually a good few tries, to beat. As such the length of the game depends entirely on how good you are at the game, it is pretty challenging though so you should get a decent amount of gaming hours out of it. You can find the game pretty cheaply online too, so the lower price makes up for the shorter play. (It's worth saying that while it was originally released on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, it's included in the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection released on the Xbox 360 and PS3, various other compilation games and the Wii Network).
The only characters to really speak of are Sonic, Tails (who appears very briefly at the beginning) and Dr. Robotnik (or Eggman as he's now known). The game either assumes that you know the characters or doesn't think that it's worth explaining them in a game with such a thin plot. Either way the characters barely speak and hardly even interact with each other. This isn't a game built for plot or character development.
As for character design, the sprites look pretty much like they do in other early Sonic games. The only thing I can make much of a comment on are the various enemies which act as obstacles in the pinball machine. They're okay, but you probably won't pay much attention to what they look like - it doesn't matter as they all behave in the same way regardless of how they look.
Sonic Spinball works like any pinball game, except with Sonic as the ball itself. It does vary a bit more though. You're able to exert some effect over which way Sonic falls by moving the joystick left and right - which makes for much less frustrating gameplay than some pinball games. There's various flippers, switches and unlockable pathways that are pretty standard in any pinball game. Every now and again you'll need to run rather than roll across a bit of platform, but I think this is just because the developers found it difficult to build the levels so that Sonic would always roll the way he needed to enter some parts.
You're given quite a few chances to save yourself if you do slip through the cracks though. If you fall through the middle, a monster attacks you and if you can escape him then you get another chance. You can also hit various buttons which deposit boats in other areas that act as second lives, as if Sonic falls through a gap, he can row them back to the platform.
In every level you'll need to collect enough chaos emeralds to get to the area where the boss enemy is lurking, and you'll then need to defeat said enemy by repeatedly bashing into it. You can still fall down into other areas whilst fighting the boss, resulting in an annoying journey back to the correct area - but other than that the boss fights are pretty easy, probably the easiest part of the game.
Every level has a unique design and feel, and as there's only four levels the difficulty rises very quickly. This game is, in my opinion, very difficult. It's not that it's all that easy to die, but it does take a long time to defeat levels as there's many different things you need to do to progress.
There are also mini-games sometimes between levels, which give you the opportunity to earn more points and extra lives. These consist of Sonic playing an actual pinball machine, so you can only use the flippers and can't affect which way the ball falls like you can with Sonic - so they're actually a bit more difficult than the main gameplay.
It's a pretty addictive game, which is the only replay value it really has. There's no multi-player and you can't adjust the difficulty, so it's the same game everytime you play it.
Compared to other Sonic games, the background music is pretty intense. It's pretty frantic and at times actually a bit creepy. It really get your adrenaline going, which can only help you with those oh-so-important reflexes. The music that screeches out at you when you're at risk of losing a life is even more terrifying - even worse than Sonic the Hedgehog's drowning music! The music really does help create an atmosphere in the game.
The graphics quality is Sonic Spinball is pretty standard for a Sega Genesis game - along the lines of the second or third Sonic games (although some of the compilations Sonic Spinball is found in offer the option of smoothing everything out a little, which just makes it look a little better). The level design is pretty good - each of the four levels has its own unique look and feel, each being a little eerie and much darker than most Sonic games. Everything's very cold and mechanical - fitting for Robotnik's lair.
Who It's Appropriate For
There game may be a little creepy for very young children, especially when they see the little animals being turned into robots. Apart from that though there's nothing to worry about here. It's rated E for everyone.
As I said earlier, you can get the game on a variety of consoles - some in compilations but others with just the game on its own.
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