The Pinball Wizard

Have you ever heard of the Pinball Wizard?

“The who?” you might ask.

The Pinball Wizard! The cute, and very sphere-headed, champion of the magical pinball world!

The Pinball Wizard

This champion’s story is told in The Pinball Wizard, a simple but charming game that meshes roguelike dungeon crawling and pinball gameplay under a cute minimalist aesthetic. Developed by Frosty Pop and originally released back in 2019 for iOS, the story of our beautiful and brave ball-man has finally made it over to Nintendo Switch. Frosty Pop very graciously gifted me a review copy, and I did enjoy the approximately four hours it took me to beat the game’s main “story” campaign.

Upon booting up the game, you are met with an eye-catching screen with three choices: Start, Options, and Scores. Options contains a pretty standard menu, where you can tweak a few things like music and sound FX volume, as well as camera shake. My one issue is that I desperately wish there were an option to turn on a visual aim assist while in game, but I’ll explain that in a little bit. The Scores option is also straightforward — this wouldn’t be a proper pinball game without a leaderboard of the highest scores.

The game itself starts with its story premise laid out with several pleasant pictures. One fateful day, “The Eye” that shielded the lands from chaos became weak and fell from the peak of its tower. The titular Pinball Wizard, our brave bobbleheaded champion, set out to place “The Eye” back in its rightful place and restore order to the world.

The Pinball Wizard

After the introduction, you’re tossed into some very simple pinball-style gameplay where you are the ball — or, at least, your massive head is. You get bumped around by the flippers to navigate the room, kill monsters, collect points, get a key, and reach the top of the tower.

Everything feels pretty responsive, though with the large-headed wizard-man being the ball, it can sometimes be tricky to gauge where you are on the flipper, which makes it hard to predict where a flipper hit will send you. Because of the lack of an aim assist bar, you will often go absolutely nowhere near where you intended — it can feel like the flippers are there solely to prevent you from falling instead of giving you any real control over your trajectory. The flippers kind of feel as though they are scooping you — the right flipper more than the left — and this, mixed with the inconsistent speeds at which you run, can cause you to fall out of the tower more than you’d like.

As you complete floors, you’ll gain experience to level up, which gives you more health and mana (for your two main abilities), as well as unlocking new upgrades. You gain money pretty quickly, and you can use it buy skills, such as a magnet for picking up money and items from farther away, a magical orb that will attack and pick up things for you, and, most importantly, the dash spell. The dash ability is the only option you have for correcting the awkward flipper launch movement. It pauses you in place while a directional arrow spins around you, when you let go you speed off in that direction.

Once you are fully leveled up, your experience gets turned into money, and it is incredibly satisfying to finish a run and see you are getting something ludicrous as a reward, like 15 billion moneys.

The tower in the story has 23 floors, which are the same every time you start a new run, and it took me around four hours to complete the entire thing. Post-game content involves two endless dungeons where you just survive as long as you can, and one randomized daily dungeon that you can only play once per day for some reason. I did notice there is no way to reset your save data, so if you want to do the story from level 1 again, you just can’t (unless you manually delete your save file).

The Pinball Wizard

Overall, I had fun with The Pinball Wizard. The story is simple, and the aesthetics are cute. The gameplay can occasionally be annoying, but it’s still solid enough to not really negatively impact the whole too badly. I’d recommend snagging this if you want to kill a few hours, and I could see it being sort of a fun couch-party game where you and some friends trade off the controller between endless dungeon runs. But with the daily dungeon only playable once a day, and no ability to start from level one again without a hard deletion, I’m not super invested in coming back to The Pinball Wizard for longer than maybe 10 minutes at a time. At this point, I’ve gotten everything I’m going to get out of its pinball-inspired premise.

Disclaimer: I was given a review code for The Pinball Wizard on Nintendo Switch, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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