There has never been a better time than now to be a pinball fan and a home console gamer. Pinball FX2 has been going strong for years with a host of different licensed tables from Marvel to Star Wars to The Walking Dead. More recently, Stern Pinball Arcade released with licensed tables from AC/DC, Last Action Hero, and Starship Troopers. Both series have a free to try model which encourages players to purchase tables individually for a few dollars each. Momonga Pinball Adventures smashes this game model into smithereens by creating their own universe, story and take on the classic game.
I had no idea what a Momonga was before sitting down to try Paladin Studio’s latest game. It is in fact the name used in Japan for flying squirrels, and also the main character in the game (known as Momo). One day the Momonga village fell under attack from evil owls, they took all the Momonga squirrels and vanished. Momo was nearly killed during the attacks and left for dead before being rescued by a kind Panda. As time passes, your wounds heal and Panda is now your trainer/mentor who teaches you necessary skills to save your fellow rodents (through pinball, naturally). There are 9 stages to play through in addition to three bonus mini-game levels. In a typical level you are rated based on completion speed, amount of stars picked up and your health…at the level’s completion you are awarded up to three stars. Once you have completed a level, you can replay it with a different objective such as: collect all the stars, break all the rocks or don’t break any boxes. Every level has 5 different objectives to complete which earn the player a medal, giving good cause to replay levels multiple times. Unfortunately, you can only complete one assigned objective at a time; like it or not, every level must be completed a minimum of five times to earn every medal.
Controlling Momonga is pretty straight forward, but the button mapping left me a bit puzzled. Control of the left and right flippers is mapped to the left and right bumpers on the controller. I would have preferred the buttons to be mapped to the triggers and judging by the user reviews on the marketplace, other players would have as well. Yes, thanks to button mapping on the Xbox One it is possible to manually adjust the control settings, but there really isn’t an excuse for a few set control layouts in the options menu. Aside from flippers, the only other controlling the player will do is “serving” Momo to start the round. That is done by pulling back on the left thumbstick or holding LB. Overall the controls are very responsive and intuitive enough for even young children to memorize quickly. This is great considering the graphical style of Momonga Pinball Adventures will likely appeal to younger gamers. Every time Momo falls through the middle of the flippers or takes damage from a “boss”, he will lose a heart. If all hearts are lost the level must be restarted from the beginning, as there are no checkpoints.
With a cartoon style almost similar to watercolor, Momonga Pinball Adventures is quite visually enjoyable. Settings vary from outdoor forests to indoor temples and even in the clouds alongside floating donuts and pizza slices (no you did not read that wrong). While the graphics are not the most detailed or stunning, they are sharp and vibrant. It does not take long for the levels to load and while cutscenes continue to play at the level’s beginning, you always have an option to skip them. The music in Momonga Pinball Adventures is especially catchy and upbeat, although it can get a little repetitive.
With levels being relatively easy to complete and only about 10 of them in the story mode, the average gamer can finish the campaign in less than 2 hours. Your willingness to replay these levels at least five times each can feasibly squeeze a few more hours of replay-ability. The mini games like flying donut scarfing as Panda and pachinko are also enjoyable for brief distractions. There is no multiplayer in the game, but there are leaderboards for those who love to compete for high scores. I found the achievement list to be pretty straight forward, making for what should be a not too difficult completion. I personally feel that the $5.99 price tag is appropriate given my enjoyment thus far with the gameplay and story, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on sale eventually for a few dollars less.
Momonga Pinball Adventures definitely scores points with me when it comes to originality, responsive controls and a charming world. Serious fans of pinball should stick with the more traditional games mentioned in the introduction, as this game won’t scratch that pinball itch much. Everyone else looking for something lighthearted, or especially something for younger children, shouldn’t be afraid of giving Momonga Pinball Adventures a shot.