The Pinball Wizard is a cute pinball-meets-dungeon-crawler in which you catapult a wizard around a medieval tower using a pair of pinball machine flippers. Coupled with a magic orb and a dash attack, the wizard has to slay the monsters standing in his way from restoring a magical orb that can protect the land from evil.
In a distant mythical land, some wizards constructed a giant tower, and atop the tower sat the Eye – a magical orb that protected the land from evil. However, as time passed by, the integrity of the tower worsened and the Eye fell from its pedestal.
Now that evil is present in the world again, a lonely wizard must reach the top of the perilous tower and restore the Eye to its pedestal, and bring peace to the land once more.
In The Pinball Wizard your main objective is to clear each floor of monsters to find a golden key, which you use to progress to the next floor. As you embark on your mission, you collect gold and XP. As you level up, new skills are unlocked, and you can upgrade these skills with gold.
Your two main skills are the wizard’s dash attack and a magical orb. Unlike regular pinball, you can change the direction of the wizard with his dash attack. This is super convenient for hitting enemies, avoiding enemies, and for reaching the door once you’ve unlocked it.
The other main skill is a magical orb that is essentially an extra pinball with a short lifespan. You can use the magical orb to inflict damage on monsters. Frustratingly though, the wizard and the orb can collide, and this can lead to some unfortunate situations where their momentum cancels each other out.
The two resource bars to keep your eye on are your health and energy. Your health bar depletes when you are hit by enemies, fall between the flippers, or when you get knocked off the stage (this happens with bombs or when you hit obstacles and ramps too fast). You can top up your health by hitting red barrels or by picking up potions some enemies drop.
The energy bar dictates how often you can use your dash attack and magical orb. Energy is automatically restored by bouncing around the stage but you can also top it up quickly by hitting green barrels.
When you die, you can spend your gold on levelling up your skills. You can increase your health, energy and strength, as well as more passive skills like reducing fall damage or being able to double the value of gold and XP.
There are two disappointing things about The Pinball Wizard. The first is how short it is. There are 20 floors and 1 boss, plus 2 Dungeons, all of which can be completed in one afternoon. There is also some online functionality in the form of a Daily Dungeon but it’s nothing you haven’t already experienced from the main game.
The next disappointment is the lack of customisation. You can tap the wizard to toggle on-and-off a beard but it would have been awesome to be able to change the colour of the robes, the magical orb and the staff he’s holding.
Each floor can be imagined as its own pinball machine, with each floor progressing in difficulty and complexity the further you go up the tower. Wooden barrels act as bumpers and you are encouraged to hit them as they often contain gold, health and energy top-ups that you’ll need to stay alive.
Every floor has bonus objectives that will earn you more gold. You will first achieve them accidentally (as it can feel a bit chaotic and hard to track at times) but as you begin to play the same levels regularly you will eventually figure out how to complete the bonus objectives intentionally.
Each floor escalates in difficulty by adding more enemies with their own unique way of destruction (both to you and to themselves), and new obstacles are added to test your accuracy and patience. As you can expect, later levels are larger but The Pinball Wizard still manages to feel small and cosy.
The soundtrack is purposefully subtle and doesn’t distract you from focusing on the wizard’s trajectory as you send him barrelling across the stage. Coins give off a satisfying chime when you collect them, and hitting the walls sounds soft and squidgy, which eases any guilt you might accumulate from slamming him into the stone perimeter. The enemies also give off cute, squishy noises when you hit them though, but as they can be quite brutal you don’t feel as bad.
There’s no spoken dialogue in The Pinball Wizard but its acoustic profile goes hand-in-hand with its visual design. Everything is conveyed through audible grunts and squeaks. It’s very cute to hear, basically!
The Pinball Wizard has a 3D cel-shaded style which gives it a cartoony aesthetic that is an absolute delight to see. It’s not graphically intensive in any way, so everything feels purposefully reductive in the choice of colours and textures used. The titular wizard has a big head and a tiny body, and all of the enemies have similar chibi character designs.
The castle walls are grey and bleak but the wizard, his enemies and the collectables add colour to the environment. Their bright colours help them stand apart from the dreary backdrop, which makes your objectives (from killing monsters to collecting rare gems) fun and easy. It’s a beautiful composition that helps focus the eye on the important aspects of each level.
Should you play it? Yes
Why… Although a simple premise, The Pinball Wizard is addictive. There’s an aspect of grinding involved, which will improve your skills as well as fill your coffers with gold and XP. As you level up, you will want to play every level again (including the early ones) just to prove to yourself how bad-ass you’ve become!
But… It’s obscenely short and lacks personalisation. This wonderful game can be 10x greater with some customisations to spend gold on, and some new elemental environments to explore within the tower.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Developer: Frosty Pop
Publisher: Frosty Pop
Playable on: Switch, PC, Apple
Released: 27th October, 2022