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Sonic Spinball: Did Critics Love this Spin-Off in 1994?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on August 13, 2014   |   Episode 81 (Show Archive)  

   

Sonic Spinball (Sega Genesis)
Ever wonder what Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro and other popular magazines thought of your favorite 8-, 16- and 32-bit games? Now you can find out, thanks to Review Crew! This is the only show on the internet that is willing to go back in time to find out what old school critics thought of retro games at the time. Did they pan your favorite game? Did they love something terrible? Find out every week as Defunct Games presents Review Crew!

Based on one of Sonic the Hedgehog's most memorable stages, Sonic Spinball mixes Sega's blue mascot with pinball. This Sega Genesis game looks like a traditional pinball game, but features platforming elements and end bosses. Did critics love this genre mash-up, or were they put off by the sluggish controls and lack of polish? We dig through old issues of GamePro, Mega, Mean Machines Sega, Game Informer and Die Hard Game Fan for the answers.

(NOTE: Although we occasionally cut for length, no other edits are made to the review. Defunct Games does not change any of the wording, grammar or punctuation use. Also keep in mind that our score is the average of all critics at the time, not just the sample that is reprinted on this page. If you still have more questions, I recommend you check out the Review Crew FAQ, where we address the review guidelines, converting scores, magazine covers and more.)

Sonic Spinball
[ Company: Sega | Console: Genesis ]

GAMEPRO (January 1994)
4.5 out of 5

"Yes, that's right, the only mammal to do more running than Bill Clinton is back, and this time he's a pinball machine. Not just any pinball machine, mind you, but one constructed by the evil Dr. Robotnik. Some animals just refuse to walk out into the roadway when their time is up. Sonic is one of those critters, but, fortunately, the wizards at Sega have come up with a fun, fast, and frenetic pinball game to offset all that running and jumping." -Scary Larry

MEGA #16
83% out of 100%

"No one expected anything half as good as this from Sonic's first spin-off title, but we were mercifully spared everything Nintendo had prepared us for with their repeated abuse of their flashship characters in sub-standard carts like Mario Paint, Dr. Mario, Mario and Wario, Mario is Missing. Instead we got a marvelously inventive twist on the pinball game, with fab graphics and plenty of variety to boot."

MEAN MACHINES SEGA #14
81% out of 100%

"Just when you thought there was a new contender for Game of the Year ... It's all over. Sonic Spinball offers pinball fans a dizzy love affair -- fun while it lasts. The game lacks the polish of previous Sonic efforts, with some of the graphics on the scrappy side, and the music never quite sure of itself [sic]. Superb stuff, just not enough of it." -Gus

VIDEO GAMES (January 1994)
8 out of 10

"Sonic Spinball brings that little blue hedgehog back again. This time it's a superior pinball game -- a game in which play field upon play make for a pinball game like no other. It's like no pinball game I've ever played, and it's Sonic! A pinball game that progresses kind of like a platform game, complete with bosses. It's another Sonic game worth getting your hands on." -Betty Hallock

DIE HARD GAME FAN (November 1993)
74% out of 100%

"Sonic Spinball is a decent enough game but I can't help thinking that the programming time would have been better spent doing Sonic 3. Oh well ... As it is, SS is a good pinball game with a lot of unique features courtesy of the blue hog's appearance in the game. Although the game is OK, I'm going back to Sonic CD." -Sgt. Gamer

GAME INFORMER (January 1994)
7 out of 10

"Sonic stars in his own pinball game, but it's like no other pinball game you've ever seen. The great thing about it is that you're not only playing pinball to score points, but you have to beat Robotnik all over again. He looks great and so do the backgrounds. Plus, the game is simple to play." -Ross, The Rebel Gamer

DIE HARD GAME FAN (November 1993)
68% out of 100%

"Although I'm not a big fan of pinball games (except for Devil's Crush, which was awesome), I do expect great things from any game with a blue hedgehog in it ... Sonic Spinball is not great. The background coloring is a bit on the dark side and the sound and music is a little dull and full of static. Sega, if you're gonna make an average game, please leave Sonic out of it." -K. Lee
REVIEW CREW AVERAGE: 76% - Sonic Spinball is one of those great ideas that didn't quite connect with critics. While GamePro loved this spin-off, most critics gave the game tepid scores at best. Die Hard Game Fan wished the developers had spent more time working on Sonic 3 than making this pinball fantasy. Mean Machines Sega echoed those sentiments, saying Sonic Spinball is never quite sure of itself.

On a curious note, Mega specifically pointed out that Sonic Spinball was better than the various Mario spin-offs. Which Mario games specifically? Mario Paint, Dr. Mario and Mario is Missing. Ignoring that Mario is Missing was developed by Radical Entertainment and published by Software Toolworks, what does Mega have against Mario Paint? On the other hand, I can understand dismissing Dr. Mario.

With most critics liking Sonic Spinball more than loving it, it's easy to see why this game doesn't rank up there with the original Sonic the Hedgehog. It managed to average 76%, which is better than Knuckles' Chaotix. On the other hand, most critics preferred Sonic CD over Spinball, perhaps because it felt more like a proper sequel.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG ARCHIVE: Want to see how this Sonic the Hedgehog game stacks up against the rest? Below you will find every Sonic game currently in the Review Crew archive. Read the original reviews and see if you agree with the old school critics.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
What Did Critics Say Back in 1993?
Sega Genesis 93%
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
What Did Critics Say Back in 1994?
Sega Genesis 92%
Sonic the Hedgehog
What Did Critics Say Back in 1991?
Sega Genesis 90%
Sonic CD
What Did Critics Say Back in 1994?
Sega Sega CD 87%
Sonic Spinball
What Did Critics Say Back in 1994?
Sega Genesis 76%
Knuckles' Chaotix
What Did Critics Say Back in 1995?
Sega 32X 67%

ON FRIDAY'S EPISODE: Forget Sonic the Hedgehog, because Friday's episode of Review Crew deals with the Eggman himself. That's right; we'll be looking at Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, the adorable reskin of Puyo Pop. Did critics fall in love with this puzzler, or did they miss the presence of Sonic the Hedgehog? Find out on Friday when Review Crew tackles Dr. Robotnik's first solo outing. Make sure and check out the Review Crew archive for more old school reviews, and don't forget to tweet me @DefunctGames to let me know what games you want to see next!

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