Momonga Pinball Adventures review
Pon de rebound.
Paladin's latest combines pinball with flying squirrels, which means it's already off to a pretty good start. It also combines pinball with action-adventure game design - possibly an even better idea.
This is seriously elegant thinking, actually, with each level threading you through a bright top-down world filled with hazards and loot, while the movement of your adorable little avatar is controlled by flippers on either side of the screen. It's a clever means of simplifying controls for touch-screen input, and it encourages you to approach a series of intricate stages in an ad-libbed, knockabout way. No virtual joysticks here: just taps for left and right and the occasional slide of the thumb to fire you into the action at the very start.
Rather than leaving you to control a shiny ball bearing - they're useful if you're an engineer but not much fun if you're trying to relate to your on-screen presence - Momonga Pinball Adventures places you in charge of one of those flying squirrels, the only guy in his village not to be kidnapped during a mysterious spate of flying squirrel kidnappings that you may have read about in the red-tops. Okay, the story may not have made it to the tabloids, but no matter: it's your job to bounce your squeaky hero across a series of nine short levels towards - spoiler - a cliffhanger ending that comes with the promise of more content, collecting stars, avoiding the drain - it will take away a life - and even fighting the odd boss as you go.
The landscape's colourful and wonderfully chunky, using the pastel shades and simple 3D shapes that made LostWinds such a pleasure to look at, and each level's cluttered with secret areas, speed ramps and gimmicks. One stage might see you taking to the sky and steering with tilt, while another may chuck you in with a buddy: a big fellow who can knock down walls, or a firefly who will attack enemies if you smack yourself against a bell. As the flippers ensure that just getting about can be a bit of a challenge, the designers rein in the difficulty elsewhere and - occasional bottleneck aside - most of the really tough stuff here comes from a range of optional challenges spread across each area, encouraging replays as you try to collect all the coins, say, or use certain flippers a set number of times.
If there's a problem with the whole set-up, it's that the mysterious business of creating truly punchy feedback has eluded the developers. The feel of a rebound's not bad by any means, but the sense of genuine connection that could have rendered this an instant classic is missing, and the game can occasionally feel a little sleepy as a result. That - along with a fairly short campaign - is nothing an update or two can't fix, however, and as Momonga bounces onwards, shifting from exploration to simple combat to something that feels almost like rhythm action, it's hard to get too annoyed. Like pinball? Like flying squirrels? Somebody's finally made a game just for you.