Pinball Quest (NES)

I once had a friend who owned a NES game called Pinball Quest. One day I was bored and he let me borrow it, let's just say we're not friends any more. Pinball Quest takes one part pinball and one part RPG combined in a mighty hybrid game. It has won many awards: The best pinball RPG of 1990. The worst pinball RPG of 1990. The thanks for reminding us pinball sucks award. The who needs an actual story award. The most forgettable villains award. Honestly Pinball Quest is the worst idea since the platypus.

Pinball Quest is supposed to be a RPG and most RPG's have a story that fleshes the game out. But Pinball Quest doesn't really have a story, you kinda have to make it up for yourself. It's easy to do because the game lacks any dialog or even narration. Hell, the characters don't even have names, they just do things. Most meander about aimlessly. So the power of your imagination is the only limiting factor to the story. Truly this is a brilliant design choice.

Kidnapping the princess

Nobody expects three brown things!

It all starts out with your nameless character, I don't know about you but I need a goddamn noun to keep track my characters so I call him Pinball Dude, is just hanging out in the royal Pinballian castle. I believe Pinball Dude is there for some sort of job interview, royal princess polisher perhaps. Suddenly three brown things bust into the throne room and kill the guards, beat up the king and abduct the princess. It's never really explained who or what the brown things are, or really what they want. If I had to guess though I would say they're from the League of Cliche Villains. The League doesn't really have an agenda per se, they just do cliche acts of villainy and abducting princesses is about the most cliche thing on the books. Well Pinball Dude decides that it would be a good show of initiative to stop the kidnappers and save the day. Unfortunately he fails, miserably. But Pinball Dude doesn't give up, he picks himself up and rolls out in pursuit of the kidnappers. But what chance does he have breaching the Stronghold of Villiany when the kidnapping strike force swept him aside so easily? And so ends the end of the luscious CGI opening sequence.

Now the game actually starts and you're plopped in front of a castle. In fact it is the Stronghold of Villiany, the fortress of the League of Cliche Villians! Wait a second, if this is the Stronghold of Villiany it means we're at the end of the quest. Where's the rest of the quest? There's not even a short journey from the Pinballian Royal Castle to the Stronghold of Villiany. Are we to believe that the castles are right next to each other? Perhaps the Stronghold of Villiany occasionally borrows a cup of sugar to make sugary cookies which are used to give children cavities. I don't buy it though. RPG's have rules robdamnit. One of those rules is there s a long convoluted quest where the main character grows, does side quests, makes friends and eventually becomes powerful enough to challenge the main villains. Throughout your quest you travel the world and go to places like a desert, a place in perpetual winter, a tropical forest, a haunted forest, a volcano, ruins of a dead empire, a cave, an underwater city, a slum, villages, outposts, other planets, other dimensions, the past, the future, a swamp, a city in the clouds, the moon, a hidden city, and lets not forget pleasant green meadows. Pinball Quest skips all of that filler and goes right for the jugular of a dead horse.

I hope you get it, the story and premise are terrible. The gameplay follows suit. You control Pinball Dude via flippers, just like real pinball. This make things infuriating because you want to get from point A to point B and because you're using flippers to manipulate Pinball Dude it's really hard to get him to do exactly what you want. So you end up smacking him around kind of randomly and hoping for the best. Not only that but there's always huge gaps that you cannot possibly cover that your ball can fall past. This isn't really a problem because you have no limit on lives and on the first table it's merely a minor annoyance. But once you get up to the fifth table for example and your ball falls past your flippers you're ejected to the fourth table which must be re-conquered. However with a little bit of bad luck you could be on the last table and find yourself back at the first table in no time flat. It's a shoddy device to increase the play time of a bad game.

Skull Knight

Oh no a fearsome Skull Knight! Oh wait, I think he left his sword and his balls at home.

What about the enemies? There are none, at least none that pose a threat. For the most part you are invincible and enemies, even the biggest and baddest you face, just meander about harmlessly waiting for you to pummel them. I think they're all pacifists or something because they absolutely refuse to fight back. However while the enemies might be some brand of pussy they can take a beating and this is a problem. It's a problem because destroying the bad guys can drag on and on which increases the likelihood you'll end up on a previous table. But to help deal with this issue you buy items from the store. There is a store between each table, the way this works out is that all the stores are inside the castle. The stores are staffed by a race of big scary red men all of whom are ex-convicts who love to sodomize pinballs. The stores only stock two types of items; stoppers and flippers. Stoppers plug up holes that Pinball Dude can cheaply fall down. Flippers increase your attack power so you can kill the harmless enemies faster which helps reduce the amount of time you spend bouncing around like an idiot and thus reduces any mishaps which would cause you to end up on the previous table. From my standpoint this helps to reduce the fury that the game would otherwise cause by at least 1500%.

Shoplifter

I'm not saying there aren't trustworthy pinballs, I'm just saying watch your back.

The best item in the game is the legendary Devil Flippers, an item so evil and powerful that I'm sure many conservative Christian parents threw the game out and had their houses blessed by a holy man in an attempt (which often failed) to purify the evil that they had been exposed to. That minor issue aside the Devil Flippers cost 50,000G, the G is the standard currency in the Pinballian realm. In our world the G is called points. In Pinball Quest 50,000 points is a lot and no one really wants to play Pinball Quest long enough to amass that amount. The developers seemed to have realized this problem when the beta testers turned to cannibalism. So the ability to steal from the stores was added to the game. If you're lucky you can steal a pair of Devil Flippers early on and not have to worry about them anymore. Stealing is the one area where Pinball Quest shines because it highlights the glamorous side of theft. But if you fail in your attempted theft the big scary red man takes half your G, which is practically worthless anyway, so no loss there. Next he grabs you with his left arm and squeezes you until a leg pops out of your perfectly round pinball body, then he breaks your leg and throws you out of the store. It sounds harsh but Pinball Dude heals quickly and the proprietor has amnesia or something because he's always ripe for the picking. Eventually you can steal your way to victory.

WTF

It's part of the end cut scene that's all I can say for certain. What it has to do with anything no one knows.

Whether or not you can beat Pinball Quest is only a matter of how much mental self mutilation you can tolerate. Eventually you will get there and beat the last guy. He is like all the other enemies and just meanders about waiting for you to grant him destruction. When he is defeated Pinball Dude dances around the princess in celebration. She's either grateful or indifferent, it's very hard to tell. Suddenly the floor collapses and the pair fall for quite a ways until they hit a giant (and assumed to be) evil magnet in the middle of black nothingness. This is a big "what the fuck" moment because you will have no clue what the magnet has to do with anything. When Pinball Dude and the princess hit the evil magnet they bounce off and keep falling, the magnet cracks and shatters and is presumably destroyed. If he's evil this a good thing. If he's not he's just an innocent victim of the carnage and you should feel bad. I assume that he's the real boss villain and in a revolutionary game play decision is fought and destroyed entirely inside a cutscene. Perhaps he was just that tough.

Finally all is well in Pinballia and this is highlighted in a happy scene where Pinball Dude reunites the Pinballian peasants with their beloved princess. A parade is organized in Pinball Dude's honor but is canceled on account of rain.

Rating: You're better off going outside and flying a kite in a thunderstorm.

By: Brock | On: Sun, December 30th, 2007 - 10:29 PM