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