Review: Sonic the Hedgehog: Spinball (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we fly through cool loops in the Sega Genesis game Sonic the Hedgehog: Spinball. We find out how well this pinball game plays.

This game was released in 1993. The game is a spinoff game of the original Sonic the Hedgehog series. We are quite familiar with this franchise. Previously we played the original Sonic the Hedgehog game. That game scored very well here. We even tried the Sega Master version, but that game only got a decent score. Next up, we tried sonic the Hedgehog 2. That game also got an excellent score. Next up was Sonic the Hedgehog 3. That game didn’t go over quite as well, but offered pretty good entertainment value nevertheless. Finally, we tried Sonic & Knuckles. That game garnered a great score like some of the other better games in the series. So, we thought we’d try this game to see if it is just as good.

The story appears to be that Dr. Robotnik has trapped Sonic inside a pinball environment. Sonic’s mission is to collect the power gems and defeat Dr. Robotnik as he makes his way through various tables.

One of the common objectives is to try and collect the 3 gems. Once you collect all 3, you need to make your way to the boss room. Defeat the boss and you’ll be able to move on to the next round.

Between tables, you’ll also get a chance to score bonus points by completing mini-objectives. Losing here is no big deal, but these levels can boost your overall score.

As you bounce around the various levels, you’ll note that there are a number of smaller objectives to complete. This includes opening doors, clearing paths, and activating bridges. Each completed objective will get you closer and closer to your ultimate goals.

Another thing to note is that each level contains multiple tables. Generally, you start at the inital table with pathways, warps, or tubes to get from one location to another. Some warps don’t take you anywhere and some even take you backwards. So, not all of these warps are created equal.

Like other pinball games, you can drop targets and complete small loops to continually increase your score. In one example, you can “bag” some worms. If you actually drain Sonic, you’ll receive a bonus for every worm you “bagged”.

One thing that is fairly novel to this pinball game is the fact that draining the ball won’t always mean you lose a life. In some areas, you can have a chance to save yourself by jumping out of danger. Other areas, however, will cause you to lose a life if you drain Sonic, so it isn’t as though it’s hard to die in this game.

Another fairly novel feature is the ability to influence the direction of Sonic. Pushing left or right while Sonic is flying through the air means you can bend Sonic’s trajectory in that direction. Additionally, there are small platforms where you can even walk around on or ledges you can grab a hold of and pull yourself up.

One thing that can be hit and miss in pinball games is ball physics. Some games nail this nicely while others have a very touch and go system. Sadly, this game falls in the latter category. Sometimes, you can graze Sonic with the flipper and it will cause him to fly up. In other instances, you can slam Sonic into a wall and there will be very little bounce back. As a result, you have to be mindful of walls and ledges because that can almost instantly slow you down.

While it may sound interesting to blend platforming and pinball action, this makes execution of such a game difficult. In this case, the execution wasn’t the worlds greatest. While it is great to see multiple “tables” within a level, there aren’t a whole lot of features that make this a particularly exciting pinball game. As for the limited platforms, controlling Sonic was hard enough before in other Sonic games. In this game, not only are there limited opportunities to wander around levels, but the controls just aren’t there to begin with. This leaves you with just a dash of platforming that means very little here.

Generally speaking, the idea of putting Sonic the Hedgehog into a pinball environment sounds like a great idea on paper. In fact, with certain neon casino-like levels in the previous games, it almost seems like a natural fit. Unfortunately, this proved to be a lacklustre combination upon execution, leaving players with decidedly average gameplay. The game makes for a rather feature poor pinball game and a virtually non-existent platforming game as well.

Graphically speaking, this game is pretty decent. While it isn’t amazing, it isn’t bad either. Keep in mind that games like Secret of Mana, Rock N’ Roll Racing, Super Bomberman are also on the market at this time in gaming history. The small bits of animation on many different features are pretty good and the environments are pretty well realized. It’s just that there are other games out there by this time pulling off similar quality in graphics.

The audio is pretty decent. The music is pretty decent and the sound effects are alright. I can’t really say anything particularly amazing or particularly bad on either count, but it is pretty decent.

Overall, this is a game that sounds great on paper, but wound up falling short on execution. As a pinball game, the features are somewhat limited. As a platformer, it is virtually non-existent. Combined, it makes for a fairly average game. The graphics are pretty solid and the audio is alright. So, while it is easy to get excited for a Sonic game, this one just doesn’t live up to the greatness of other games in the series. A decent game, but nothing amazing.

Furthest point in game: Collected a gem on level 2. High score: 24,384,350

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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