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Sonic Spinball

For: iPhone   Also on: Mobile

Pinball whiz-ard

Product: Sonic Spinball | Developer: Sega | Publisher: Sega | Format: iPhone | Genre: Platform, Pub Sports, Retro | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.1
Sonic Spinball iPhone, thumbnail 1
There’s a good bit in The Simpsons where Bart finds himself confronted with a pinball table for the first time. He’s impressed by this strange machine from another time because, he notes, the graphics are remarkably realistic.

It reminds me of my major hang-up with pinball-based video games: what’s the point?

The whole appeal of bashing a ball around a free-form obstacle course is the tactile joy of it, the fun of manipulating physics in such a finely honed, hyper-kinetic way. Why even attempt to virtualise that?

Bumper package

Sonic Spinball gets a thumbs-up from me because, while it isn’t a particularly good pinball game, it is a pretty decent video game.

As a conversion of an old Mega Drive game, and one that’s been re-released in countless compilations since, this distinction has proved divisive.

Some hate the game for its not-quite-buttery-smooth framerate and relatively limited selection of tables. Far more love that Sega made a whole game out of the most memorable bit of Sonic 2 – the Casino Zone flipper sections.

The game is simple: as Sonic you make like a pinball and bounce around four sprawling tables. Collect all three Chaos Emeralds and you get to take a crack at the level boss, and subsequently move on to the next table. Despite the limited number of levels, it’s a pretty tough task.

Flipper the finger

The main distinction here is that you’re controlling a platform character, not a ball. As such, there’s no left and right-thumb flipper control, only a virtual D-pad (for manoeuvring Sonic) and three virtual buttons under your right thumb (left flipper, right flipper, and both flippers respectively).

This can seem awkward if you’re used to having two-handed control over your pinball games. As Sonic Spinball is more of a platformer-pinball hybrid, though, it makes perfect sense. It’s certainly more gamey as a result, which is a good thing.

Hardcore pinball fans will find Sonic Spinball to be the same compromised experience they scoffed at in 1993. Indeed, it hasn’t been updated at all, with the same 16-bit graphics (all you get is a choice between native resolution and full-screen) and the same occasionally atrocious sound (the electronic fart that greets your death is an assault on the ears).

It’s not a particularly progressive update, then, but Sonic Spinball stands tall among other Sega updates because there’s still nothing quite like it some 17 years after its initial release.
Sonic Spinball
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 5 January 2011
While pinball fans will continue to balk, Sonic Spinball is fun enough and quirky enough to remain fresh and relevant enough despite being relatively unchanged since it launched in 1993
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Jan 2011
Post count:
BeatDown | 23:42 - 5 January 2011
Its a Sonic game so you know you cant go wrong. Be sure to check out this game, http://bit.ly/mrmigapp very cool to play!