Monday 22 February 2016

Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Sega Technical Institute
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1993

Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball is a pinball title that was also released on the Game Gear (1994) and Master System (1995).

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 but the physics are floaty and it takes a while to adjust. Minor platforming is required at times but again the controls are sluggish and not at all smooth. The stages include Caves and a Lava House but the level design is generic with no real memorable moments. The placement of Emeralds is also confusing so you'll spend most of your time wandering around aimlessly, trying to figure where they are and how to access them. This requires lots of trial and error and some serious patience, as there's many sections where a wrong move will transport you backwards. The final stage harkens back to Spring Yard Zone and Starlight Zone from the original game (1991, Mega Drive) but it's a sprawling, poorly designed maze with many death pits that will have you tearing your hair out. In contrast, the bosses are easy and pose little challenge as they simply require you to continually launch yourself from flippers to demolish them. At the end of each stage there's a Bonus Round which takes place on a singular table; here you need to perform actions such as smashing Dr. Robotnik's teeth to defeat him. Unfortunately the tilted camera angle makes it tricky to line up your shots and the ball frequently refuses to be caught on the flippers. Musically the game is full of faux-rock songs that sound like someone drilling in your ear.
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball is a great idea but it's a real shame that most of its gameplay elements are so poorly executed. The developers missed the mark in a number of areas and instead of focussing on the 'fun factor' they ended up designing a game that's more frustrating than anything else.
Random trivia: The game was re-released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007.

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