Muppet Pinball Mayhem
Cory You (6-4-2002) - After what seemed like an eternity and about a dozen release delays later, Muppet Pinball Mayhem is finally out for the Game Boy Advance. So does it live up to the year long expectation? Let's just say I haven't had this much fun with a Muppet video game since Muppets Inside for the PC in 1996.
I had always wanted them to come out with a Muppet pinball game at the arcade. The zany wackiness of Kermit and the gang always seemed like perfect material for some full tilt boogie. What we have here is the next best thing, thanks to Beaker accidentally locking the Muppet gang in a roller coaster virtual reality program.
The game starts off in the kind of way you had always wanted, as one can't help but grin at the beauty of the introduction. It's a pretty nice rendition of the Muppet Show theme song, complete with that dramatic drum opening and the theater curtains revealing the tiered arches onstage. There's no animated recreation of the full opening, but it is good enough.
Inside the theater, there are a variety of options, including adventure mode for one player and competition for one to four players. The levels are set up just like a pinball game in the arcades, though much bigger thanks to Gameboy Advance scrolling techniques. There is the trigger plunger, and a left and right flipper. There are also other flippers on the table you can control. Finally there is a tilt button, but use this with caution. If you hit it to many times at once you'll lose your ball. The game itself is beautiful, as each table is introduced by a brief vocal welcome by the Muppet character. Once a huge score is maintained and various tasks accomplished, the next level is unlocked (though the first 3 levels are playable on the competition mode).
Kermit Pinball Table
You start off with the Kermit level, comprised of swamps, movie theaters, amusement parks, and other things from the Muppet Movie. Each level requires various tasks to accomplish depending on what you've triggered. For instance the Kermit table includes running away from Piggy and saving Robin. I like how within each stage there are various missions to accomplish, as they compliment well with each character specific level.
Piggy Pinball Table
The Piggy level is what you would imagine. It's pink and lavish everywhere on the table with quite a focus on moi's taste in expensive jewelry. In fact one of the missions is to help Piggy find her ring. There are lots of interesting loops, slides, and hidden pockets galore. This level is a bit harder, requiring much faster reflex skills. If you ever wondered what being inside Piggy's head was like, this is it.
Gonzo Pinball Table
The Gonzo level is my favorite. It's a totally outrageously wacky table with chickens, exploding cannons, and wild drum jungle music. In fact each level is very colorful, imaginative, and packed with familiar signs and sounds from the show. The stage design has a very robotic, almost futuristic flavor to it. This is by far the wildest of the levels, as the ball zips around in flames and rockets go off. This is also the most unpredictable level, as everything is so fast and new added features like the cannon target add extra challenges to the mix.
Bonus Animal Pinball Table
Just like the other three levels the bonus Animal level is the epitome of the Muppet. From the funky music to the psychedelic colors this table is all about being hip. Hot pink shag carpet and multi-colored lights lines the parameter of the table. Also like the other levels there are two table areas. The lower table consists of two microphones that are used as bumpers and a trombone for blasting the ball into play. A piano keyboard lights up in multi-colors each time a key is struck by the ball and once all the keys are lit, a saxophone shaped skill shot on the left plays music. The upper level has a large drum set with the Muppet Show logo placed on the bass drum with a skill shot opening located in the 'O'. Continuing in the upper table are two ramps that loop around the drum set and include a drum stick spinner on the left ramp. A pair of flippers is also located on the upper level to aid in shooting skill shots and ramps, but watch out for the cylinder pop-ups on both upper and lower tables which make targets harder to hit.
Some of the bonus missions include getting the crowd to roar for Animal and letting Animal play a song. The missions and skill shots for this level aren't as clear as the others. With all the ramps and pop-ups it's certainly the most difficult level. The colors and graphics are fun, but the music gets annoying. After several attempts to complete each previous level, reaching the bonus level was somewhat anti-climactic.
Pros and Cons
So is it fun? Oh yeah! I'm already a big fan of pinball games at the arcade, but Newkid Co. has totally kept the craziness and wacky fun that's such a benchmark of Muppet goodness.
So what complaints do I have? While for me Muppet RaceMania was a bit awkward, you had to hand it to Midway for putting in a whopping 30 Muppet characters. Here we only get 3 character levels and a hidden fourth that features Animal. There is virtually no reference to other Muppet characters, except for a few sound clips. Oddly enough Fozzie is featured on the box, but only his famous "wocka wocka'" from the Muppet Movie is included when you pull the pinball plunger release. Other than a reference to Beaker, Robin, and a few assorted chickens, the other Muppets are missing in action.
However one of the great things about Muppet Pinball Mayhem has to be the battery save function, which is missing from a lot of Gameboy Advance games these days. The battery save is great for keeping high scores and levels that you unlock.
Overall, it has been a long time coming for a Muppet Show themed game, and Muppet Pinball Mayhem is as good as it gets. And as far as Muppets on the go, this is the perfect furry goodness for passing time at the office or on the road.
The first thing you'll want to do is just explore the levels, starting of course with the Kermit stage. This would include seeing what the various whimsical ramps, shoots, and other functions do. Soon, you'll be able to master the art of the ramp combo, multi-ball, and frenzy mode.
When in frenzy mode, don't let the stars that shoot from your ball throw you. Just be on the alert as the ball will be a little more difficult to navigate around the table. When in multi-ball, your screen will be focused on the lower-half so that you can see your bottom flippers at all times. It's a shame you can't see the whole table, so just be on extra alert during this mode as well.
This is where you want to plan for strategy and huge score bonuses. There are ball lock holes on each side of the level. This is where you can unlock the various tasks. By hitting the ball right when it is on the end of the flipper, you'll be able to hit these pocket areas.
Also of note are the various letters to hit. Hitting 'Muppets' produces kickback mode which lights the ball up with stars. The tasks are really neat, as it takes some strategy and luck, but pays off big time in the score and overall game play.
For instance, in the Kermit mode one of the main goals is to get the ball to the amusement park or the movie theater. In the Piggy level there's a lot of neat missions as well, like getting Piggy to the theater for her singing debut. In the Gonzo mode there's an amusement park goal, which leads to the cannon target mode which is quite fun.
Overall, just remember to use tilt when necessary to keep the ball in play. Memorize what flipper to hit for what reaction. Once you get the hang of the levels, you'll soon be getting your score way into the hundred million mark.