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Sonic Pinball Party

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Released: 2003

Genre: Sports

Format reviewed: Game Boy Advance

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Sonic Team

Submitted by: Craig Hawkins

Trust the impostors currently parading as Sonic Team to give a pinball game a story mode with dire dialogue between nauseating characters to delay the fun of the pinball. Rapidly pressing A to get through the intolerable nonsense is as unavoidable as every other stupid Sonic Team idea over the past decade. I'll refrain from relaying the plot to you here on the grounds of common decency.

This is not a follow-up to Sonic Spinball. We're given a proper ball to play with this time rather than having to bash Sonic all over the place. The table comes in a sequence of stages based on the Sonic Advance series, including Neo Green Hill Zone and Ice Mountain Zone.

These stages generally only change in terms of paintwork and objectives, the actual layout remains similar throughout. To beat each stage you light the egg lane in order for Dr Eggman to appear on the table and then defeat him. This works well both as a pinball title and a Sonic spin-off. Amazingly.

In story mode you have to complete a specific task set by another character from the Sonic universe to progress to the next round of the tournament. Specials inevitably include ring mode where, yep, collectible rings appear on the table. Those god-awful Chao creatures first seen in Sonic Adventure also provide bonuses and you can alter the tables to Tails, Knuckles and Amy designs. It's not found wanting for graphical variation.

An arcade mode caters for those who lose the will to live in story mode. Also included from the start in the arcade is a table based on Nights. There are enough differences in the tasks here for there to be a separate tutorial for it. It's faster, too. Quickly unlocked is a Samba de Amigo table with just as much fan service but less fun service. There are extras on the menu screen that I refuse to speak of.

Sonic Pinball Party swats away Sonic Team's best efforts to infect it with gaming malaria. The core gameplay is exhilarating with scores of clever touches to be found amongst the padding. You could say that of any Sonic game from the past ten years, though.