Friday 26 February 2016

Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (Master System review)

Developer: Sega Interactive Development Division
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1995

Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball is a pinball game that was also released on the Mega Drive (1993) and Game Gear (1994).

Your mission is to rescue the animals of Planet Mobius and stop Dr. Robotnik from turning them into robots. There's four stages and the objective in each is to open locked pathways and locate 3-5 hidden Chaos Emeralds. Sonic can be moved from side-to-side when he's in the air and there's times where minor platforming is required. Unfortunately the physics are floaty and launching Sonic off a flipper is always an adventure as his current momentum doesn't consistently carry forward (meaning he can suddenly slow down in a very unrealistic fashion). The first stage gets off to a bad start with confusing level design and unclear pathways to the next part of the table. However, if you can endure the dodgy opening and adjust to the wonky controls the gameplay dramatically improves. Future stages are much clearer to navigate and the fact that this port has condensed stage layouts helps with pacing as you're not wandering around aimlessly. Speaking of which, the action is zoomed out further than the Mega Drive original so locating the Emeralds is less of a chore. There's also fewer instant death traps and some fun, exclusive items such as giant red springs that launch you into the air and hidden areas with extra lives. The bosses are still too easy but the unique final battle is highly enjoyable as you need to work your way up a massive structure and continually flip onto a floating Dr. Robotnik. The Bonus Round is also exclusive as you have to sprint your way around a series of cages and collect as many rings as possible within 90 seconds. It's a fun diversion, despite the slightly stiff platforming controls.

Weirdly, this version of Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball is an improvement over the 16-bit original, mainly because it doesn't feel like you're on a wild goose chase when hunting down Chaos Emeralds. It still has some problems but it's nowhere near as frustrating, and the exclusive content actually enhances the gameplay in many areas.

Random trivia: This Master System version was only released in Europe and Brazil.

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