|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Zen Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ignition Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 9, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
August 29, 2007 - Simply whacking a ball around an obstacle course leaves much to be desired, which is why all of the best pinball games, whether in video game or physical form, often incorporate specific goals or even story elements into the mix. As the first pinball game on the DS, Metroid Prime Pinball set a high benchmark for the genre with its impressive two-tiered playing fields and thoughtful use of style from the popular alien hunting series. Almost two years later, another game, long in-development by Zen Studios, is gearing up to raise the bar even higher.
Players who like their pinball with a side-order of syrupy-sweet cuteness set in a hyper-colorful 3D world of crazy talking animals and light-hearted adventure may find Flipper Critters to be just what they've been searching for. Ignition Entertainment's upcoming DS title takes a solid pinball game engine and wraps it up in a bright, exuberant package. Younger gamers may be drawn in by the cutesy graphics, but it's highly likely hardcore pinball wizards won't be able to stay away either. The game is reportedly the first DS title to utilize 3D graphics on both screens simultaneously. From what we've seen so far, both screens will get a hefty workout, as Zen Studios pushes the system to its very limits. Even with the emphasis on ramping-up the visual stimuli, it appears Flipper Critters still maintains highly responsive ball controls and a steady frame-rate.
The story in Flipper Critters follows the adventures of main characters Gawain "Tiger" Chesterton and Bubba "Monkey" McManus as they embark on a grand quest to save their friend Fluffy "Bull" von Gigglestein who has come down with a crummy cold. They are part of a wild cast of characters you'll encounter while guiding the furry heroes on their way by flexing your pinball prowess. In an effort to help their friend, Tiger and Monkey end up on a much longer jaunt than they expected, as they face many challenges in the imaginary, and magical, Flipper Critters world.
Rather than sticking to a basic table design, the pinball action plays out over a range of fully 3D landscapes and unique environments. You'll be flipping a silver ball through mountains and castles, in a giant's backyard, on the moon, and other exotic locations. Each play field takes up both screens, using them as a single display. The bulk of the play occurs on the lower screen, but occasionally the top screen will zoom-in to follow the ball more closely when you trigger an element or hotspot. The game contains bumpers, sinkholes, ramps, jackpots, gates, and other traditional pinball elements, though these features take the form of creatures, boats, flowers, fruit, and many more unexpected items.
Progressing from one level to the next requires certain objectives to be met. You'll receive assistance, hints, and play challenges along the way from many of the game's strangely cute inhabitants who guide you through your quest. You'll have to activate various hotspots which will triggers events in the current area. This will often unlock a zone which can be hit to travel to the next area. Appropriately, the flippers will be controlled with the left and right trigger keys. A few interesting touch elements also appear to be included as well, as players can tap the screen to slide and manipulate some elements. A wide range of mini-games - such as an R-Type style flying shooter - have been incorporated into the play in-between levels. A multiplayer duel feature is expected to be included in the game, but it will require each player to have their own copy.
Whether Flipper Critters, as a whole, can live up to its good looks is still to be seen, but the title looks very promising. At the very least, the game should be able to give Metroid Prime Pinball a run for its money. Assuming there are no further delays, Flipper Critters should be on store shelves this fall.
CCC Freelance Writer