Reviewed: December 23, 2007
Released: October 30, 2007
Whenever a game releases at a ridiculously low budget price, we reviewers generally find ourselves in a bit of a quandary; are we required to review the game as compared to big budget releases, or do we give the developers a bit of extra credit for pinching pennies?
While we would like to say that we rate every game equally, certain writers (like myself) feel that we should even the playing field a bit when developers make an honest attempt to deliver a quality gaming experience at a low cost – even if it doesn’t meet the benchmarks set by the Marios and the Metroids of gaming.
In the case of Flipper Critters for the DS, we have an entirely functional dual-screened pinball game for the DS, complete with 3D visuals, interactive touch screen controls, multiple morphing playing fields, multiplayer gameplay, and a story mode to boot. And while the game might not rock the Nintendophiles’ worlds as much as Metroid Pinball did a few years back, for a mere $15 just about anybody can get into the game.
So, what we are talking about is pinball. You know, those ancient machines with the balls, bumpers, and flippers that parents used to play way back before video games came out? Well, Flipper Critters takes the pinball gameplay and adds a quirky storyline involving a group of animals out to save their world from destruction by, well, turning into balls and smashing into things. Cool, eh? Well, not so much…but it is fun.
I have never been much of a video pinball fan – having grown up playing real-deal silver ball, the video versions never seem to get the ball momentum and table resistance nailed down as well as mother nature can, and it all seems to move unrealistically. All prejudices aside, Flipper Critters moves and reacts very similar to other video pinball games, and even seems to outshine Metroid Pinball on the screen-to-screen jump.
The touch screen is used in an interesting way, allowing the player to cycle gates and/or switches to open new areas in the worlds using the tap of a finger. It is nice when developers include the DS’s touch screen ability without watering it down or trying too hard.
Generally, video pinball games fail because they have no real purpose other than to slap balls around the playfield and rack up points. Flipper Critters tries to add some purpose to the gaming, by making a large interconnected world and a thinly veiled storyline, which ironically ends up being the only real downfall of the game, as it can be really confusing trying to figure out what the game wants you to do. It becomes an exercise in trial and error as you try different gates, ramps, and platform switches in a futile search for the next objective.
Visually, the game looks nice on the DS – a great 3D engine gives everything a highly detailed polish and a quality color palette. The worlds can be a bit messy with too much “stuff”, but it does help to fill the empty unused playfield that is standard in brick-and-mortar pinball games.
The sound quality is not quite as exciting, with a ton of generic sound samples, uninteresting background music tracks, and no voiceovers to speak of.
While the presentation is lacking, the combination of a $15 budget price point and solid pinball gameplay (even if it is a bit confusing at times) makes for a solid purchase for those gamers who would like to have an interesting pinball experience without shelling out for the full priced Metroid Pinball.
It is great to see decent quality games releasing at bargain-basement prices. Flipper Critters might not be the best pinball game on the market, but it is well worth the minimal investment.