Sonic Spinball was a game I obsessed over on my Sega Genesis nearly 17 years ago. It was one I kept going back to and I enjoyed the simple pinball mechanics enough to play it over and over again. The game was recently released on the iPhone and I wanted a chance at the game in a portable fashion. Unfortunately, touch controls and 17 years have not reacted kindly with Sonic Spinball.
The game used to have an extremely basic story involving Sonic and Tails crashing, or something, but that is all gone, now the game starts immediately. You can control Sonic’s movements and make him jump. Once you reach the spinball area you can also control flippers that bounce Sonic around. The levels are large and interconnected by pipes and more areas unlock as you solve challenges.
The challenges usually involve hitting the right areas until you can get the Chaos Emeralds and then moving onto the next set of areas. There are four levels and 16 Chaos Emeralds to collect and while this may not be a huge amount of gameplay, it actually is due to the fact that you have only three lives and no continues.
This is one of the key frustrations of the iPhone version–once you die that third time you have to start from the beginning and playing through the game is frustrating enough due to the slow gameplay and laggy touch controls that you may not want to bother. I recall the game playing very slowly back on the Genesis (rarely does Sonic hit anywhere close to his signature speeds), but on the iPhone it seems all the more painful due to the lag between touch and action. Flippers take some time to respond and jumps feel separated from your movements, making escapes from ground dangers unnecessarily tricky.
The game itself has not been optimized or enhanced at all. The graphics are four generations old and the soundtrack is here in all its 16-bit glory. The game has the signature classic Sonic art style, but it would have been nice to see some visual tweaks or at least some optimizations made. As it stands, it is obviously simply a quick port.
Revitalized Sonic Spinball could have been a decent game on the iPhone (or maybe that is my nostalgia speaking) but as it stands, the game is frustrating to play and hardly worth the price of admission. With so many great iPhone games out there Sonic Spinball just doesn’t have what it takes to compete.
Sonic Spinball is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: Macintosh, Windows PC, Wii.