Ah, yes, I get to play some good old pinball!

Review Date: February 12, 2021

Release Date: October 18, 1985

Platform: NES

Genre: Pinball

Anecdotes: Unlike Wild Gunman, Dad wasn’t touching this one. Instead, this game got Ma addicted instead. She had a lot of fun playing this game and played it over and over trying to get a high score. Then she got to 100,000 points and the flippers disappeared, followed by dropping Pauline in the side game. It wasn’t as much fun anymore.

Description: The game is a simple pinball table divided over two screens. It is one on top of the other and the screens do not scroll. There is also a bonus game hidden in the hole in the upper right of the bottom screen where Mario faces three columns of colored lights that he needs to make match to “save” Pauline.

This is the “bonus stage” where Mario has to rescue Pauline from absolutely nothing. How did she get up there, anyway?

As shown in the screenshot above, Mario and Pauline take part in a complicated bonus stage, so I’ll try to explain it. Mario holds a rack at the bottom. The ball rattles around and it’s up to Mario to bounce it back into the air. If he lets the ball drop, the session ends and it’s back to the main table. Each column has four dots above it. Each dot independently rotates through three colors. A dot’s color changes when the ball rolls over it. When the ball rolls over a dot that causes all four dots in a column to be the same color, the section of the platform directly above the dots where Pauline walks shrinks. As the platforms shrink, the gaps get larger. When a gap gets large enough, Pauline will fall through it. Mario has to catch her with the rack, then go the either side to let her walk to the exit. He still has to watch the ball, though. If he successfully saves Pauline, he gets 10,000 points and the bonus game continues. If he lets Pauline fall, he loses a ball. If the ball falls before either result happens, it’s back to the main table with no gain or loss.

Positives: The game is addictive fun with plenty of ways to score points. Players can shoot a ball up the lane lights, get a line of penguins to get a ball post, flip cards, make the screen flash, hatch chickens, etc. There is also a hidden side game to find involving Mario. If a player manages to get the lower ball post to appear by flipping all five cards, the game becomes much easier. If a player also got three chickens to make to stoppers appear, he or she is practically unbeatable. They can still lose on rare occasion through mistakes or bad luck, though.

Below, I put a screenshot of the table. Let’s focus on the upper half first. At the start, the ball will drop through one of three slots. The middle one is the goal. Not only do players get 1,000 points, but with that bumper below, they can get the ball to go through it multiple times at 1,000 points each! In that lane on the upper left are the lane lights. I sent a ball up the lane and got rewarded with the seals each bouncing a ball. The 100 on the left is the point value for hitting the thing below it; it increases by 100 for each hit, with a maximum of 1,000. The 500 lane on the right, though, causes the penguins to flash between a 3, a 7, or a penguin. Each slot stops when the bar is above it and hit by the ball. If they all are stopped and they all match, it raises the ball post. It’s up until a ball is lost or the ball goes through the slot on the right again if three penguins show up. If it’s 3s or 7s, that is how many seconds it will stay up. I really like the complexity shown from a game made in 1983 and released here in 1985. It’s amazing.

So close. I couldn’t quite flip over the 10 of spades.

That’s the lower half of the table pictured above and there’s plenty happening. The round spot in the upper right in the entrance to the bonus stage. The numbers on the left (1 to 7) disappear when hit and if they all disappear, the pink lines on the right open up and a ball can be “restarted.” It has no practical use, but it’s fun to pull off. The chickens at the bottom start as eggs and become chickens when the ball rolls over them. Get three chickens and the stoppers will appear on the side. Last, there are the cards. They will flip over when the ball rolls through the slots below then, but unlike everything else, a face up card lasts until a ball is lost. When all five are face up, a ball post appears to stop balls from dropping in between the flippers. That’s a lot going on in just the one screen and I enjoy every second of it.

Negatives: While it’s nice to see Pauline make an appearance, the “bonus” game is confusing and the penalty for dropping Pauline is quite harsh. I would have much rather seen a point deduction or be locked out of the Mario game instead of loss of a ball in a game that only allows three to start. The game awards an extra ball at 50,000 points, but that’s it.

Grade: A

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