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The good news is that Metroid Prime: Pinball handles both ends of the combination well. On the pinball side, MP:P has all the basics down. The ball moves smoothly and realistically, and at a speed that won’t frighten beginners or patronise skilled players. The main tables have a wide range of chutes, chains and interactive features, and the layouts give you enough to explore without causing too much confusion. What’s more, Metroid Prime: Pinball has a huge advantage over many console and handheld pinball games: the dual-screen layout of the DS means that you can have half of the table on the top screen and half on the bottom, eliminating any need for scrolling. One of the problems with the likes of Sonic Spinball or Pinball of the Dead was that your viewpoint was always rather cramped, but here there’s space to see everything clearly and to anticipate the movement of the ball. On tables where there are flippers in both halves of the table, you can quickly flick your attention between the top and bottom screens and make sure you know what’s going on. With a handy touchscreen-thumbing tilt feature as your last resort, there’s no-one to blame but yourself when the ball goes down.
So, what does the Metroid element bring to the equation? Well, the shoot-em-up elements are well integrated with the core pinball action, with different creatures affecting your pinball in different ways. The Metroids themselves appear and grab your ball, weakening your shields. Let them capture you too many times, and your shields go and your current ball implodes. Other critters catch your ball and then spit it out towards the gap at the bottom. This isn’t a problem when – as in the early stages of each ‘life’ or when you trigger the force shield bonus – it’s generously covered by an energy field, but if the shield has gone you’ll need a speedy finger on the flipper to keep your ball out of trouble.
Visually and sonically, the Metroid themes merge perfectly with the pinball action. The graphics are clear and vibrant, and you can easily see how the exotic art style of the Metroid Prime games has been dragged over the Pinball foundations. The effects and music, meanwhile, have been neatly reworked from those found in the original games. Play it with headphones on, and MP:P is everything a pinball game should be: fast, loud and totally immersive. Like Metroid? Like Pinball? Then it stands to reason that you should like this game a lot.
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