If arcades were still packed with games like Metroid Prime Pinball, we’d all be spending a lot more time at the mall. The idea of series heroine Samus Aran trapped in morph ball mode, ricocheting across a pinball table seems totally asinine. But somehow it works, and most everything that makes the standout Prime series shine is represented here. The game even comes bundled with a new Rumble Pak to provide a small but crucial sampling of the tactile glee classic pinball machines have.
The presentation may be beautiful, but the guts are always the same: multilayered tables filled with bumpers, flippers, ramps ... nothing you haven’t seen already. What makes these tables special is the successful recreation of the layered, organic feeling the GameCube Metroid adventure games enjoy, complete with sound effects and music that bring back their best moments. As soon as you hit the title screen and hear the familiar opening theme, you'll understand how closely developer Fuse has managed to replicate Samus' more vigorous outings.
Each button, ramp or flashing light is interactive. Popping Samus into one might trigger any number of minigames that'll have you blasting creepy crawlies with her energy cannon or hurling around the board trying to bust Metroids. Anytime you complete these goals you’re given a Chozo Artifact, a hot commodity in the Prime universe. Grabbing them all opens up more boards and a final boss that will really put your bumper skills to the test.
Both of the main boards serve as launching pads to one-on-one showdowns with some classic Prime bosses. Initially you're only able to slam into them, causing minor damage, but by playing the board you can track down missiles and power bombs. They put the hurt on, but have limited ammo; as a result, boss fights feel just as tense as in a traditional Metroid game. Should you beat all this and tire of playing solo, you can even link up with seven friends and beat them in a live match up using just one DS card.
Video pinball is a pretty niche genre, but the pingy, bouncy bar "sport" is done pretty damn well on the DS. What seems like a gratuitous use of a popular universe turns out to be a surprisingly involved and rewarding side story.