Saturday 8 September 2018

Pinbot (NES review)

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1990

Pinbot is a pinball game that's based on the real 1986 table from Williams.

Armed with three balls, your job is to rack up the best possible score by shooting them into the Vortex, gaining multipliers, and hitting a series of targets to gain multi-balls by shooting into the Pin Bot's visor. The centre of the playfield contains a Solar System map with nine planets; starting at Pluto, you must hit various drop targets to work your way to the Sun and light Special icons for a chance at Extra Balls. Some additions from the original table have been included here, such as different ball shapes and enemies that try to attack your flippers. Rather than the entire table being on-screen, the playfield scrolls so either the higher or lower flippers are always visible; it does take some getting used to, but it's actually a clever idea that takes the guess work out of where the ball will drain as it moves down the table. The physics are fantastic and about as realistic as you could reasonably expect on the NES; I also like how the different ball shapes add some variety to the gameplay. The table is mildly entertaining for a short while, but to be honest, there's really not much to it and boredom can start to set in due to it being the only available layout. Hazards are slowly introduced, but the missiles are extremely annoying, as you already have enough to focus on without dealing with incoming projectiles that destroy your flippers! Likewise, I really detest the flies and snakes that steal the ball, as it comes across as really cheap through no fault of your own. Another bugbear is the length of time it takes from losing a ball to being back at the table; it's a lengthy delay and can take you out of your groove.

Pinbot certainly isn't a bad game, but it's so boring and uninspired that it's hard to appreciate its good points without growing tired of the same table mechanics and lack of any interesting distractions. It's the definition of a weekend rental, and (in my opinion) it even manages to be outshined by Nintendo's own version of Pinball (1985, NES).

Random trivia: In 1991, Williams released a follow-up pinball table called The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot.

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