If I was going to talk about a Sonic game, I genuinely thought it was going to be Sonic 3 & Knuckles & Knuckles & Knuckles & Knuckles. Not this. But actually… I never really thought I was going to talk about a Sonic game at all until I felt comfortable with my ridiculous level of love for that game. I mean, you all know how much I love Streets of Rage 2 and Micro Machines 2. Sonic 3 & Knux is pretty much on a par with those in terms of playability. As much as I know Sonic gets a bit of a bad rap these days, you can’t deny that his early games were pretty damn special. I have my issues with them all individually because none of them are perfect, in much the same way that Mario games aren’t either. But being a Sega child did give me a more biased opinion back in the day. I’d be more defensive of the Sonic franchise in those days because those were my games. They were the ones I enjoyed. That’s normal. If you like something, you tell everyone how good it is.
Unless it’s actually really BAD. Then you’re just being delusional *COUGH COUGH SONIC ADVENTURE COUGH COUGH*
Now I can safely say that Sonic 1, 2 and 3 (including the Knuckles add-on) are bloody good games. And in fact, anything that stayed closely to its 2D roots was a good Sonic game. Sonic CD is, personally speaking, overrated, but it’s still a reasonable enough Sonic game because it stays close to its roots. Sort of. Storytelling-wise, it’s just unusual to try and tell a story when none of the character’s speak, verbally interact or have anything narrated.
And then came Sonic Adventure.
But we’re not here to traverse that murkier time. We’re here to try and grasp the concept of sending Sonic inside of a pinball machine and telling him to not die as he gets flipped about the place and bounces off walls. It is as random and daft as it sounds and there’s a reason as to why Sonic Spinball is not considered a good game.
Because it’s not.
But I recently came across a review that said “hey, actually this game is great!” and I just had to stop, take a second to compose myself after laughing my head off, and then think about how to counter their arguments for this game. As such, I bring to you the:
‘THEY SAID THIS AND I SAID THIS’ GAME!
Rules are simple. I don’t even need to explain them! Unless you can’t read. In which case, what are you doing reading this? If you’re learning to read by reading my reviews, I’m a mixture of slightly flattered but also I SWEAR A LOT. DON’T THINK I’M A GOOD INFLUENCE. IF YOU WANT TO LEARN HOW TO READ, USE APPROPRIATE BOOKS. I WILL NOT BE CENSORED. FUCK. SEE? DON’T DO IT. Anyway.
NUMBER 1: THEY SAID THIS GAME IS FUN.
I SAID: This game is almost about as much fun as wanting to rip a plaster off my own hairy legs several times. And I’m not talking about the thick hair that stings a little bit. I’m talking about little hairs on more sensitive areas. The ones that ALWAYS hurt whatever you do to them. I’m not sure this analogy is working. But let me explain why this game is not fun.
For the most part, the biggest issue is the controls. Pinballing in general is often a physics nightmare and if it’s intended to be a proper pinball game, it will need to be pretty much spot on.The balls need to fly in the right direction. They need to bounce of things correctly. They need to be physically possible if they’re going to be taken seriously.
Now some people might make the argument that this isn’t intended to be a serious pinball game because it’s Sonic. They’re taking a few liberties with the gaming mechanics and what’s the point in creating a Sonic pinball game if you don’t get to exhibit some control over the actual character themselves? And yes, I can see that argument. It’s just a shame then that Sonic Unfunball is a mess. I’ve played pinball games before, even ones where you can slow the game down a bit to be able to catch up with it. Sonic Shunball is SLOW. It feels really, really slow. The way that Sonic moves about the place is SLOW. He barely responds to your joypad movements. He jumps like you literally prodded him, told him to jump and he argues with you before finally going ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, I’LL FUCKING JUMP, HAPPY NOW? It is weird to have a Sonic game feel as murky as this. The controls feel awkward and sloppy which makes it difficult to get used to and it’s not the type of game or game series that needs to be make awkward. The Sonic platformers are tight as with doable jumps and clean controls. Whatever happened her is pretty much unforgivable.
NUMBER 2: THEY SAID IT LOOKS GOOD.
I SAID: Well… no. I’m going to have to disagree with you for one very obvious reason. It’s not BAD per se. It is a reasonably nice looking game to a point but I argue with this: HAVE YOU SEEN SONIC 1 AND 2? THIS was released AFTER both of those two games and they still look incredible. They’re iconic. The graphics are clean, shiny and BOLD. These?
WHAT DID THEY DO TO SONIC? How did they get to that point? Was there REALLY a need to change the Sonic sprite in this game? Was there? Was there a reason for it? It doesn’t make anywhere near enough sense to do that. If the original sprites were awful, fine. BUT THEY’RE NOT.
The levels in Sonic Shitball are littered with good ideas and some nice level design for the most part. Yes, the developers were able to have a bit of fun with it. And actually, it’s odd to think that the actual idea fitted really well into the series because Sonic is all about flying though tunnels and zooming out the other end and pinball is all about flying through tunnels and zooming out the other end. It should – SHOULD – have been the perfect fit. And yet, nay. It wasn’t. The fact of the matter is it worked in the platformers because it was a good game mechanic to set the player off on their journey towards the end of the level. You had control over whether or not you went through the tunnel or chose a separate path. Sonic Spitball? Nope. Nothing doing. You HAVE to go through them AND you have to be as ACCURATE as possible to get through the gaps. Sorry, I’m getting back onto the fact this game IS NOT FUN and not talking about the muddy graphics.
They’re muddy. They’re murky. The backgrounds could have been really interesting. You could have played around with things a LITTLE bit. Pinball tables are LITTERED with all kinds of shenanigans adorning the table backdrop. What do we get?
Or even this:
I’ll be honest and say that I expected more. I think the downgrade to BLAH colours from the huge amount of colours we had in the first two games just feels a bit too Marble Zone Sonic 1 for me. They’re not AWFUL. They’re just underwhelming, such is this game.
THEY SAID: IT’S NOT TOO DIFFICULT FOR YOUNGER GAMERS.
I SAID: holy fucking shit are you absolutely fucking kidding me? Are you even PLAYING the same game as me? No I’m pretty good with pinball in general because I have a basic grasp of physics and I have good hand eye coordination. Gaming taught me that. But jeez, you’re telling me that getting through these levels is EASY?
If we’re talking about NOT DYING in games then yeah, it is actually pretty hard in the early stages to actually die. You’d have to be incredibly unlucky or just plain AWFUL at gaming to not make it through a level and die in it. You might fall through the flippers occasionally, which in later levels is basically an open gap into hell, but in the first few levels, you’re given a bit of leeway.
But no. The hardest thing about this game is what plagues ALL pinball games and that is the fact that you don’t feel in control of Sonic in any way shape or form. When he wanders about in levels, he grabs ledges when he jumps, he takes an AGE to jump (if I haven’t been obvious enough about that) and the level of control you have of him is abysmal. A lot of what happens is purely down to luck sometimes, making it incredibly frustrating. I want to jump up to a specific area BUT IT’S PINBALL. So of course I can’t. That makes it frustrating. Granted that’s not reeeeeeally the game’s fault. It is the fault of pinball in general but… this is a pinball game. AND IT IS FRUSTRATING. There are better pinball games because they are pinball games. This isn’t even a proper pinball game. There’s a PLOT. There’s platform and objectives. It it a platformer that you basically CANNOT CONTROL.
And it’s fucking hard as nails.
So younger gamers will not get anything out of this. I never did. It drove me mad. I hated it. I would happily say to people who badmouthed Sonic that yeah, Sonic Gutterball was a big load of rubbish.
THEY SAID: PICK IT UP IF YOU CAN FIND IT.
I SAY: Actually… well… I can’t say you can’t. If you find it and want it, fine. Get it. HOWEVER, you shouldn’t. Do you fancy having an evening of frustration and insufferable, bobbins gaming? Go for it. Do you fancy playing pinball without any actual pinballing? Go for it. Do you fancy playing a Sonic game? DON’T. FUCKING DON’T. Sonic 1, the first game in the series, a game that is 24 years old, is better than this one. Any other pinball game is better than this one.
HELL, even Sonic Adventure, glitches and AWFUL voice acting and all, is better than this game. And Sonic Skincrawl is a finished, complete game. Jeez.
Basically, it is NOT a game worth the time or effort unless you enjoy getting annoyed at things. I know that Sega enjoys putting pinball levels into the Sonic games with Casino Night and Carnival Night being all about fun and gambling and shit but that doesn’t make them good levels. Casino Night was a ropey level in the grand scheme of things and Carnival Night had two of the game’s worst bosses. The music was amazing for them both mind. Unlike the music in this game which is GENUINELY ear-splitting in terms of how nonsensical it is. It doesn’t fit, it gives dubstep remixes of dubstep tracks a good name but without the vague tune. It is basically just random bass noises strung together. Just imagine the kind of music your nan might make with a KORG or something. And then imagine it just in bass noises. And a thousand times worse.
And therein lies the game. Think of every Sonic game and make it a thousand times worse. That’s Sonic 06 and Sonic Boom. Then think a little bit higher. You’ve got most of the Game Gear back catalogue. Little bit higher? THIS.
Be thankful, Sonic Shinsplitter, you’re not as bad as Sonic 06 or Sonic Boom.
And for that, you can have a bronze star.
Actually… maybe a bronze pentagon or something. Stars are too good for you.