Pinball - Nintendo, 1983


Pinball was one of the first games released for the NES, evident from both its primitive graphics and its label design (most early first-party NES titles featured a sprite-styled label - including Super Mario Bros., Kid Icarus, Metroid, Pinball, Wrecking Crew, Mario Bros, Ice Climbers...) In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this game started life as an arcade title - it definitely has that feel to it. As such, you can't expect a whole lot of flashiness from the game.

Pinball top screen Pinball bottom screen

Basically you have a two screen pinball machine with an extra bonus screen (more on this later). There isn't any music during gameplay (just a short tune when the game first starts), but there are plenty of sound effects as the ball interacts with the machine. You've got point bumpers and icons to hit. There's a spinner than rotates the penguin images between 3's and 7's - receive a nice points bonus if you can match three of a kind. There are playing cards to flip over, baby peeps to hatch (get three peeps on screen and receive side bumpers), and number flags to collect.

Pinball Pinball

The hard-to-reach Bonus Area is the most interesting part of the game. Rather than flippers, you have our hero Mario carrying a steel girder. You use the left and right arrows to move Mario back and forth to catch your silver ball (it much be a very bouncy girder). At the top of the screen a girl is walking back and forth - I think she's Pauline of Donkey Kong fame. Above Mario are 12 dots that change color when your ball passes over them. What's the point of this? Every time you color a row of numbers the same color (make all the 1s pink, for example), the floor section above will become a little smaller. Eventually, Pauline will fall through the floor. It's your job to catch her with Mario's girder and guide her safely to the side of the board. You've also got to keep your ball from dropping out of the sides. If you save Pauline, you get a bunch of bonus points. However, if you let her splat on the ground, you lose your current ball. No sooner do you rescue her than Pauline appears at the top of the screen again to be rescued.

The game's okay, but it's just not that exciting. Like many single-screen arcade games, it just doesn't hold up that well over time (especially when there are much more fun early games out there). Once you've seen the Mario mini-game, there isn't much left to do (unless you really want to beat your old high score). It is interesting to see one of Nintendo's main mascot's first cameo appearances, and just to step back and realize how far gaming has come since the early eighties.

Oboe Shoes writes that the Mario bonus stage has a cameo appearance in Wario Ware: Twisted! (see images below).

cameo cameo

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