Momo’s cheerful expression is enough to warm even the coldest of hearts, but behind his young eyes hide the sad tale that Momonga Pinball Adventures tells.
Paladin Studios become the latest developer to bring their mobile wares across to Wii U and whisk us to Aya, a continent where animals have lived in peace since the Great War. The momonga, a tribe of flying squirrels, live on small islands situated on the river Yana where they have made their homes in the hollow trunks of tall, looming Sequoia trees.
Innocently keeping to themselves, evil owl bandits led by General Kuton suddenly raid the village and kidnap every momonga. But one escaped their clutches, the young Momo rescued by the nomadic Panda who is taken to a sanctuary high in the mountains to be healed.
It is unusual for a pinball game to be steeped in such narrative, but Momonga Pinball Adventures actively seeks to stray from the norm in such a way. Positioned by Paladin Studios as “the first episode of an epic adventure to save his tribe,” that episodic intent is evident by the game’s shorter than expected playtime. With nine story levels and an additional three bonus levels, early questions can be raised surrounding the £4.99 ($5.99) price point given that it is comparatively £2.29 ($2.99) on iOS for the same content.
Three of those story levels are tutorials, teaching players how to use the game’s flippers to launch Momo – who, if you haven’t guessed by now replaces the pinball – toward collectable stars, target boards, and breakable terrain that open up a route that lets you continue your adventure. Moving away from the constraints of regular pinball cabinets, the relative freedom in bouncing the flying squirrel around arenas makes the experience feel more like a crossover between pinball and crazy golf.
That all lends itself well to the sense of adventure, which is opened up further by sections where Momo takes flight and the player is left to steer using the Wii U GamePad’s gyroscopic controls. Such input works well, as do the flipper controls that will see you aim for boosters, bushes that act as bumpers and shatter crumbled walls to uncover more stars.
It’s all pleasantly presented, some charming artwork being replicated in character models that make Momonga’s world particularly endearing to be a part of. The transition to Wii U has seen the developer upscale Momonga’s colourful visuals, an aesthetic that feels at home on a Nintendo system even if the graphical fidelity isn’t as crisp on a larger screen.
Online leaderboards are present that let you compare either globally or against friends, although both presented me with the same list for comparison. Otherwise, longevity comes in the five challenges that you are posed within each level. These range from completion or destroying blocks, through to harder tasks such as destroying specific targets with one shot each or not destroying any crates.
That Momonga Pinball Adventures can be beaten in an hour is the most troubling flaw, but works well as an introductory pinball experience for a younger crowd. The repetition in repeatedly tackling the same handful of levels is matched by a looping soundtrack, leaving us left hoping for an expanded offering with the next episode.