A budget release set at $4.99, Car Mechanic Pinball puts a creative spin on classic Pinball gameplay.
Instead of flicking a ball against bumpers, the player uses flippers to launch a car into pacing car mechanics and gas canisters. Hit the mechanics enough times to fix the car then park it on the side of the screen to repair the next. While there is a scoring element, aiming for the highest rank on the leaderboard isn’t necessarily the end goal. Instead, fixing cars to earn money to grow the scope of the board is how this pinball game separates itself from others.
Unfortunately, it takes a while to start enhancing cars and the overall size of the board. To get there, grinding car after car gets repetitive despite the unique premise. The money aspect is also confusing. There are many symbols on screen but all of them are grayed out unless the player grinds enough and hits certain criteria. Without a tutorial or explanation, players are left to drive in the dark without headlights.
As creative as it is, using the car as the ball is also very strange due to inconsistent and unpredictable physics. The car is sometimes front heavy, it will spin oddly, or fall in a way that is unexpected. The randomness generates charm but can also produce some head scratching moments as it feels like the car is being pulled by a magnet at times.
Eventually the player can collect gas cans. Once enough gas has been collected, the player can use the shoulder buttons to drift as the car is falling to the main board. This is another creative design element but doesn’t offer much since controlling these swirling falls is barely controllable. The paddles themselves have also been creatively designed. Not only can the player adjust their physical appearance, but they can also be used with two different strengths: a light or heavy thrust. Unfortunately, the light flick doesn’t send the car with enough strength to make bumpers worthwhile.
The voxel visuals are colorful and fit the personality of the quirky gameplay but the soundtrack is darker and faster paced and doesn’t align with the events happening on screen. The music also doesn’t cleanly loop which is distracting. The worst part though is the panning camera. Since the game board is wider than the camera’s viewpoint, the camera pivots left/right to follow the ball as it reaches the edges of the board. This jostling camera actually made me queasy after a few games and had to stop playing from motion sickness. Hopefully this was just me but something to be warned if you are prone to motion sickness.
The object-based pinball gameplay, as opposed to going for the high score, is unique for a pinball title but ultimately misses the mark. Interrupting gameplay by moving the fixed car to the garage, then stopping to select a new car that doesn’t mean anything, to relaunch it back into the play field to repeat the same steps from wonky physics isn’t the most intuitive although initially engaging, exciting, and different. There are a lot of high-quality concepts here but none of them come together in a cohesive way. If there is ever a sequel, let’s hope for a $10-$15 price point but with more polished design and execution.
Not As Good As: the Pokemon Pinball games
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Wait For It: a sequel to Shatter
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com
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