Momonga Pinball Adventures Review

Pinball games look like they should work well on mobile devices. The screen proportions are similar to pinball tables, and tapping flipper buttons translates well into touch controls. In practice, though, the scale is so different that pinball on a phone just doesn’t feel like a mechanical pinball machine. It’s a problem that Momonga Pinball Adventures tries hard to overcome, mostly by being strong in other areas.

Momonga Pinball Adventures offers a big twist on the traditional pinball experience: a story. Your ball is actually a momonga, a Japanese dwarf flying squirrel. Momo’s village has been destroyed by marauding owls, and he’s determined to find and rescue his missing family. After training with a wise old panda, he sets off to confront the owls in their own city, befriending a martial-arts monk firefly and a molerat city-keeper along the way.

That’s a funny name for a pinball wizard.

The story is short but clever, and makes good use of its Japanese theme. (The owls have feather patterns resembling samurai armor, a cute touch typical of the game’s look.) It also translates well to pinball. Momo explores each level by rolling around a pinball table, knocking down targets to remove obstacles and battling owls by knocking into them.

Developer Paladin Studios keeps the game interesting with variations like multi-ball and sequences where Momo glides across the screen picking up stars. Pinball aficionados may be disappointed, however, because the pinball itself isn’t very rewarding. The layouts are simple, the controls are a little mushy, and a lot of the targets seem to operate on the principle of “get the ball close enough and that’ll do.”

The final boss is also painfully frustrating. The game is easy until he appears, but he’s loaded up with hit points and attack abilities, and he kills poor Momo over and over as you try to beat him. It’s as if the designers decided they needed another hour of gameplay and decided to get it entirely out of this one level.

“My life is pain.”

The most annoying thing about the boss’s difficulty is that it’s so unnecessary. Momonga Pinball Adventures works well as a casual game, something light and fun that you can play just to see what happens. The additional challenges available for each level fit this ethos: you can complete the level, then try to complete it doing something unusual like not hitting a particular target. The game plays best when it’s easy, and upping the difficulty only highlights its limitations as a pinball game.

Despite its flaws, though, Momonga Pinball Adventures is the kind of game that makes you smile while you play it. The characters and art style are cute, and you’ll enter each level looking forward to seeing what tricks the developers have up their sleeve this time. As a pinball game, Momonga Pinball Adventures is okay at best, but its story and charm help make it a unique and worthwhile experience.

Momonga Pinball Adventures developer trailer

  • JoelSixPack

    I’ve been really enjoying this game the past couple of days.

    I actually thought the game’s difficulty had a nice steady curve to it, and ended in a boss battle that was challenging and clever, but not frustrating. The hard version of the final boss was pretty crazy — but still fun and very satisfying when I finally beat him.

    My only really complaints are that I wish there were more levels and I’m not a big fan of how the story ended. But hopefully updates will address both of these concerns.

    • http://www.the-app-shack.com Matt F

      Thanks for letting me know… when I see that something is “frustrating” I know its because the reviewer has a lack of skill or cant keep up with the game. Thanks again.

      • STP_Chris

        So what you’re saying is that every game is perfectly balanced, and anytime anyone has trouble it’s their fault?

      • http://www.facebook.com/aylott Chris Aylott

        My pinball fu *is* pretty limited, but I factored that in before coming to an opinion as to whether the boss was challenging or frustrating.

        Here’s my problem with the difficulty level. The game is built around a set of challenges for each level. The first challenge is always, “get through the level,” and for almost every level that’s easy to accomplish. In this respect, Momonga Pinball Adventures is a lot like casual puzzle games like Cut the Rope, where a minimal level of skill is all you need to see what’s next. In that respect, I agree with JoelSixPack that the game has a steady and well-paced difficulty curve.

        I think that paradigm breaks down on the final level, though. Kuton has lots of hit points and three distinct attack patterns, including a flight behavior that makes him invulnerable for significant periods of time in the middle of the level. Given that the rest of the game is pretty easy, my professional opinion is that this is overkill. Take out two hit points and reduce the flying time, and I think you would have a level that’s challenging but still in line with the rest of the game.

        • derkdegeus

          Hey Chris et al, thanks for the honest and constructive feedback. We’re going to have a look at the difficulty curve based on all the reviews and comments we received. We want to put a smile on your face, and we thought that a tough boss fight would be a good thing – but it could very well be that we need to ramp it down a notch to make it more accessible. We’ll check it out.

          Thanks again and have fun! :)
          Derk de Geus
          Paladin Studios

          • http://www.facebook.com/aylott Chris Aylott

            Glad to hear it, Derk. I’ve worked on games where I had to rejigger the difficulty curve a dozen times or more, so I appreciate how hard it is to find the sweet spot.

            There are lots of things in the game that made me smile too, from the visuals to the bits of trivia between levels. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do next with Momo’s adventures and with other games!

      • rodgerodger

        No, the last boss is frustrating. Far from impossible, but after breezing through the first 8 levels the last boss is much harder. Which is dumb.

        There’s a lot to like in this game, but it is short. Took me maybe an hour to play through, half that time at the last boss. And now having to play challenges one at a time and in a certain order? Bad design decisions. The game would be so much more enjoyable, even if short, if they didn’t try to artificially extend the game time.

  • JoelSixPack

    Well, the take-away from this conversation might be that the difference between “challenging” and “frustrating” sometimes just comes down to personal opinion. I certainly wasn’t saying that Chris was wrong in his review, just that I had a different experience. I think I beat the final boss on the second or third attempt with only one heart left, so I walked away pretty satisfied.

    But I suppose if the game is trying to appeal to a more casual audience on the initial playthrough of each level, then maybe the boss was a little too hard. Either way, I had a blast with this game and I’m not even a big fan of pinball.

    Also, at first I agreed with rodgerodger that the challenges just seemed like a way to artificially extend the game, but after I did a few of them I sort of got hooked because there is actually a lot of variety in them. And some of them seemed almost impossible at first (especially the 20-sec owl killing one!!), but after figuring out the right strategy and patterns, they became much easier to achieve.

    Many thanks to you and your team for making a great game, Derk de Geus. Because of the way the story was left are there definitely going to be updates coming? And if so, do you have a time frame figured out or is that still up in the air?