Momonga Pinball Adventures – Wii U

Momonga Pinball Adventures is exactly what you think it is: A pinball game with a story. An adventure if you will. What? You don’t know what a Momonga is? Pfft! It’s a Japanese flying squirrel of course. At least that’s what the in-game messages say…

The main selling point of Momonga is that it offers a story mode. The story follows Momo as he awakens to hear his village and people have been taken by some very naughty owls (I like owls so I don’t buy that one bit). As you awaken you are greeted by Panda, who turns out to be a bit of a Sensei and teaches you the ropes of the game during the first three stages.

It’s pinball. If you need me to describe that concept then I don’t know what you’ve been doing with your life so far. Momo turns out to be quite the contortionist as manages to form the perfect pinball. Your job is to slam the poor bugger into various targets such as switches, or breaking columns to make your way to the end of the stage. Each stage is usually made up of multiple small sections which presents a different layout or challenge.

Throughout each level you can pick up stars, which are regarded as points. After you complete a level you are ranked out of three stars, angry birds style. This ranking takes into account a few things. Firstly is the total of the stars you pick up, how much life you have left and then based on what challenge you completed on that play through.

Unlike most pinball games, the stages are set in real life environments rather than in a table. This particular adventure takes you on a trip through grasslands, ruins and such like. While for the most part there is a linear progression to stages, there are secret areas to discover and slightly different routes to take.

I like the idea of a pinball game revolving around a story and progressing through levels. While Momonga certainly provides that, in the end it just leaves you wanting more. The nine stages of the story campaign will last you about an hour and the story is incredibly brief. Cut scenes and dialogue barely last a few seconds at a time. Don’t come expecting an epic Uncharted kind of adventure.

Luckily, the gameplay is pretty fun regardless and provides a decent alternative to more realistic pinball games. The story also allows Momo to team up with a few buddies along the way and they really add something to the game. For example, half way through you will team up with a big old guy called Guaka. This basically makes the stage multi-ball, except Guaka is stronger than Momo and can also act as a platform for you to leap off. A little later you’ll come across Fry who will help you defeat enemies.

That’s right there are enemies in the game! Later on you will begin to confront those naughty owls and while you aren’t able to defeat them alone, Fry will distract them first and you can deliver the finishing blow. There’s not too much variety in the enemies, some have shields that are bothersome, while others can throw spears at you. It’s actually the shield bearers I found the most deadly however. They basically stalk Momo, constantly moving to his location. This means if you want to hold Momo awhile to either plan or aim your next move, they will keep edging closer to you, so eventually they are so close to you that you can’t actually get Momo out there, you will hit the owl and Momo will instantly reflect down the middle of the flippers, taking life from him.

There is also a boss fight at the end. I don’t want to say too much, but for me, it’s the most enjoyable bit of the game. It feels well thought out and constructed like a genuine Nintendo boss battle, but with an actual bit of challenge.

There are 3 mini games which are each unlocked every 3 stages. The first let’s you take control of Panda in a game dedicated to the gliding mechanic occasionally seen in the main game. As Panda you glide forward trying pick up donuts and other various food stuff, all the while avoiding clouds which will prematurely end your run. The gyro controls make it more interesting that it would otherwise be, but it probably won’t hold your interest for long.

The second mini game is basically pachinko. You get three chances to throw Guaka into the fold to try and land in the high point zones. You can manipulate the pathways a little by using the shoulder buttons to move paddles in and out of the way. Again, like the first mini game, it won’t hold your attention after a few tries.

The third and final game is called Arena. This, for me, is the best one of the bunch. It’s more like a survival mode as you make your way through round after round completing different objectives. This mode is where the game comes closest to a real game of pinball.

While the story mode is short, the game really tries to add replayability to it. Each stage actually has 5 goals to accomplish. The first time playing the goal is always to just complete the stage. Once that is done, there are various other targets the game will challenge you on. For example, the second goal of a stage may be “find all the stars” or “destroy all the rocks”. Completing all of these is where most of your game time will come from, and some are genuinely not easy. Collecting all the stars might sound simple, but if you accidentally trigger moving on to the next section (easily done!) without getting all the stars there, you’re done for. You’ll be hitting restart before you know it.

Graphically the game is decent for what it is, and the art style is nice and cartoony. It actually reminds me a lot of Donkey Kong Country Returns, although of course with a much lower budget.

Musically, I’m highly ambivalent. On the one hand it has a rather brilliant, catchy piano song with beeps and burps of electronic sounds. On the other hand that’s practically the only song that plays through the whole game, at least on the main stages. Despite how good that song is, it can’t carry the weight of the whole game.

I know pinball fans are big on their physics and I’m not going to pretend it’s anywhere near a pinball simulation. It’s very much a “well, is it really that important?” kind of physics. Which my answer is, no it’s not really important in this kind of game. They don’t feel horrific which is the minimum I’d ask for.

Overall, Momonga Pinball Adventures is a fun, if only brief pinball adventure game. If it was a meal it feels like I’ve just eaten the appetiser for something a bit meatier to come from the studio later. I hope future instalments go more all-out with the story/adventure thing, offering more, taking Momonga and his pinball adventuring to another level.

 

Good points

  • Simple, fun gameplay
  • Plenty of replayability

 

Bad points

  • Not the grand adventure we were all hoping for

 

Game provided by publisher

 

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