Pinball games on most any console are plentiful and cheap; there have been some great ones, like Rollerball on NES or Crueball on Genesis, and some not so great ones like Pinball Dreams on SNES. You may have noticed that over the past couple of days I’ve been reviewing pinball games, and for the most part I’ve found them to be decent but with many flaws. I like pinball video games because they are trying to emulate and analogue type game digitally, and the results are always interesting to see and as we saw from Video Pinball and Thunderball! the mark hadn’t quite been hit yet, but I think I found a game that has finally scratched that pinball itch I’ve been yearning for, for so long, and it’s on the 2600 to boot. The game we’ll be looking at today is Bumper Bash by Spectravideo, and my goodness this game is rare, currently sitting at a princely R9, correct me if I’m wrong but this game is rarer than some actual pinball tables, I don’t know the actual numbers behind the rarity scale would an R9 be less than 1000? 2000? I don’t know. But without further ado, let’s review the rarest game I’ll probably ever own.
When compared to Video Pinball there is no doubt that Bumper Bash comes out the victor, but when compared to midnight magic things get a bit tricky. I would argue that even though Midnight Magic looks more like a traditional pinball table Bumper bash is more fun to look at, though not as advanced. Bumper Bash, to me, is like a pinball table that got crushed; everything is much closer to each other that they normally would be, it’s trying to be original. Many classic pinball staples are present, the triple bumper, drop targets, rollovers that spell a word, and those wonderful drain holes. The ball is circular, hooray! Which is more than I can say for Midnight Magic (yes I know the perspective is zoomed out and it wasn’t feasible to have a circle with the given resolution, but please just let me gloat), truly a step up. The movement of the ball is nice and smooth and there is no flicker to speak of, which is fantastic, the last thing you want in a pinball game is choppy movement and occasionally invisible objects.
There are very few sounds to speak of, mainly the regular beeps and boops. A nice touch though is having the beeps increase in pitch after every time you hit one of the side bumpers, but otherwise it’s on par with the other pinball game I’ve reviewed thus far. If only the 2600 had an extra sound channel, just think of the potential… that would be wasted since nobody would program music for the console anyway, that’s why I like the NES to a certain extent, it could do music well.
This is a fairly good approximation of pinball, as stated before the ball movement is smooth but the game falls into the same rut as Video Pinball and Thunderball!, you mostly watch the game play itself, but to be fair it’s still better than both of its predecessors. The layout of the table is a little weird as well; the table skews rather awkwardly to the right leading to some complications. Your ball will never drain down the left hole, it simply doesn’t happen, but the ball is juggling itself around the right drain hole almost constantly, this is mostly due to the physics. This game’s ball physics are decent but flawed, the thing is basically a source of perpetual motion, but will stop on a dime occasionally when you put your flippers up to catch it, instead of a metal ball it feels more like a rubber one. The wonderful thing is, you won’t care about the wonky physics because the game is still a blast to play, the game has a flow that was absent from the previous titles and is also lacking somewhat in Midnight Magic, I can’t really explain the feeling but anyone who’s played pinball will know the feeling as well. I almost forgot to mention the unique way this game is controlled, because this game is a Paddle game, you use the action button on each paddle to control a separate flipper, and while nowhere near the feel of the arcade, it made an attempt and I think it’s quite charming.
Needless to say this is a collector’s item only, I coughed up about 70 bucks for a copy with a very faded label, I’d hate to imagine what a mint cartridge goes for. Looking at Ebay I’m seeing may sold carts for 50 to 130 dollars with boxed copies going for at least 300 dollars. Sure it’s a fun game but it costs more than a new game today, so for that reason alone Bumper Bash is going straight into the Collector’s Zone.