Friday 24 July 2015

Galactic Pinball (Virtual Boy review)

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1995

Galactic Pinball was a launch title for the Virtual Boy and development was managed by the console's creator Gunpei Yokoi.

The A button shoots, B shakes the table and the flippers can be activated using either the d-pads or the triggers; the latter feels great and weirdly it adds more immersion to the gameplay. There are four unique tables on offer called Cosmic, Colony, UFO and Alien and in each one you have five pucks (lives) to try and reach a high score. The Cosmic table features a huge planet at the top that you can occasionally shoot into for one million points. It also has a cool bonus round where you fly under the table and play a shooter that resembles Galaga! The Colony table has many awesome features including Rescue Ships that allow you to catch the puck and a section where you need to shoot incoming comets that launch towards your table. The UFO table features a massive ship that can eventually be removed to reveal a giant skull with a gaping mouth that you can fire into for bonus points. Last is the Alien table where you can uncover and then destroy extra-terrestrials by shooting into the hole at the top of the table. It's probably the least interesting to play but still fun. Replayability is high as each table has many little secrets and cool moments that you'll want to keep revisiting. Some tables have a Bonus Roulette wheel that can reward you with useful items like a Kick Back which blocks the bottom side lanes. There are also Target Letters and if you hit all of them to spell the table's name you'll earn big points. The physics are spot-on and not once will you feel that the game cheated you out of a life. The 3D effect really enhances the experience and I love when the puck travels to an underneath layer of the tables. There's some amazingly clear speech and the electronic music is some of the system's best.

Galactic Pinball is a gem in the Virtual Boy library and surprisingly it's the most immersive experience I've had so far despite it not being a particularly high-profile title. In my opinion it's worth owning the system purely for this game as it really shows off what it can do from a technical and gameplay perspective.

Random trivia: A prototype version of the game (when it was known as Space Pinball) is available online and it features five very different tables. Read more here.

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