Sunday, January 20, 2013

Momonga Pinball Adventures [Paladin Studios] - $2.99

Pinball games on the iOS are definitely hit and miss. The controls, physics and general layout of the tables have a huge impact on the gameplay experience, and screwing up one aspect can throw the rest of the game off entirely, and while some players prefer the crazy old-school layouts, others have been waiting for something to push the genre forward. Paladin Studios, developers of Jimmy Pataya, have just released their second iOS title, Momonga Pinball Adventures, and pushing the genre forward is something that it does very well. 

You’ll guide Momo through 9 levels as he sets off on an adventure to save the Momonga who’ve been taken by the Owls. Aided in the adventure by Panda, you’ll face off against the Owl tribe as the last of your kind. Each of the 9 levels contains 5 challenges and a possible 3 star rating which is based on your score. Scores are built by collecting stars that appear after breaking crates, destroying enemies and are otherwise scattered throughout the stages, how much time it takes to complete the level, how much health you have remaining, and how many challenges you’ve completed. 
The challenges differ from level to level, but the first one is always the same; complete the level. Others range from collecting all the stars in a level, destroying targets with a set amount of flipper actions, destroying a certain number of rocks, finding secret areas and more. This does help add to the replay value and though it does feel a bit tacked on after the fact, will give completionists a run for their money as the challenges can range from casual to very challenging. 

Levels are split up into areas which you’ll be required to ‘complete’ before moving on to the next area. This can be done either by hitting targets, unlocking a door and then making it through the door before it closes again, destroying the enemies in that area, hitting Momo into a jump pad that will catapult him to the next area, or simply by hitting Momo into a booster that sends him on his way. As you get into the later levels, Momo is joined by a kung fu firefly who goes crazy at the sound of a bell, requiring you to hit the bell to activate him, and then help him defeat the Owls by hitting Momo into the enemies the firefly is attacking. 
You’re given 3 hit points for each stage, with some stages having hearts that you can pick up to restore your HP. Falling into the drain or getting hit by an enemy will take away HP, and with some enemies able to attack, and smack you in other directions, death from HP drain is a very real possibility in some levels. 

Breaking up the pinball play are sections in which you’ll need to fly to reach the next area. This is done by tilting your iDevice. It isn’t required that you tilt your device in most cases, as Momo will safely glide to the next area without help, but if you want to collect stars and boost your score or complete challenges, you will need to control Momo in order to do so. This did take me by surprise when it first happened, as there wasn’t any introduction to it, or any dialogue saying that flight was going to be necessary, even though the stage that you first fly in is named ‘Fly Momo Fly’. This aspect of the gameplay might just turn some people off. I mean, who wants to control a flying squirrel with tilt controls during a pinball game? But it does add to the ‘adventure’ aspect of the game a bit.

Also included in the game is a bonus infinite level where you’ll guide panda through the air collecting donuts and other bits of food with this control method. Now, since Momonga started as an infinite pinball game with randomly generated levels, something like this would have been awesome for a bonus level. Even though most of the code was probably scrapped while turning the game into a level based pinballer, it would have been great to have a ‘score as high as you can before you die’ pinball level as a bonus instead of a ‘tilt while flying to collect food’ endless level in a pinball game. 

Aside from that, the controls are great, with tapping on the left and right sides of the screen controlling flippers, and the physics for the game just feel right. Even though they are nothing like a ‘real’ pinball, they do feel good considering you’re flicking a rolled up momonga through the world. The level designs and graphic qualities of the game also stand out quite a bit, though those of you searching for a crazy ‘quick bounce’/lights flashing everywhere type of pinball game could be pretty disappointed, Momonga Pinball Adventures does take a stab at merging the pinball genre with the adventure genre, and does a great job creating an evolution of the two. It makes me want other developers to create even more dynamic, complex adventure pinball games in the future, but as it is, this is an amazing start. 

Regardless of anything negative I can think of to include here, Momonga Pinball Adventures stands out as one of my favorite pinball games to ever grace the AppStore. Priced, at launch, for $0.99, the game will rise to $2.99 in a couple more days, so if you’re even remotely interested in checking out what a flying squirrel pinball adventure game with crazy high production values on the touch screen is like, you might want to snag this one ASAP. Being Universal and including GameCenter integration also helps quite a bit with the recommendation, having 11 leaderboards, one for each stage along with the bonus stage, as well as a ‘Total Score’ board and 10 achievements, the game is also only the beginning, being part 1 of 3. Though this also might turn some people off, as episodic iOS games don’t really have a great track record, the content contained in the game as of now definitely justifies the $3 asking price. With Momonga Pinball Adventures and Jimmy Pataya under Paladin Studio’s belt, here’s hoping that they keep developing outstanding games for the iOS. 


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