Game Title: "Flipper Critters"

Platform: Nintendo DS

Studio: Zen Studios/Ignition Entertainment

Rated: E for Everyone for mild cartoon violence

Rating: 5 out of 10


GAME PLAY: Pinball machines were all the rage in the '50s through the late '70s. The metal ball bouncing on various bumpers, the flashing lights and the ringing bells were an exercise in instant gratification during the game play. Fingers pushed the flippers, and it was fun to watch the score jump exponentially.

With "Flipper Critters" the joy of pinball comes back on a smaller scale, meaning on a smaller screen. But the experience is bigger than any of the modern-day, multitiered pinball games. However, there are a few drawbacks in this game that hinder the enjoyment.

First the easy things: Just tap the L and R buttons to move the flippers for the most part. Players can also use the control pad and the X and Y buttons.

Use the stylus and tap the lower screen to open gates and set up shots.

Now for the more difficult aspects of the game: The story-mode is pretty convoluted. Three critters — Tiger, Monkey and Bull — are friends. When Bull catches a cold, Tiger and Monkey head out to help him but become thrown in a pinball-laden adventure that involves sorcerer Miranda of Mirandel Castle, sensei Gruff Billy Goat, moon president Fats Porkbarrel and Pop the Porcupine (a balloon salesman).

By gaining access to different levels or worlds through pinball skills, the game — which utilizes the visuals on both DS screens — is fascinating to watch at first. But with hard-to-follow directions, the gamers find it hard to move onto the next level. And adding more chores to the mix, there are mini games that sometimes get in the way of the final goal — to save Bull.

If the story gets old, there is a "fun play" option that allows the gamer to play the pinball and mini games that have been opened to that point. One cool aspect, however, is that no matter how much the DS is shaken, it won't tilt the game.

GRAPHICS: The pinball areas are elaborate and react quickly to the flipper-flicked ball. And the mini-game screens are nicely colored and easy on the eyes.

AUDIO: Arcade-like music and the sounds of vintage pinball bells and bumpers add dimension to the game and are nostalgic to old-school pinball wizards.

THE WRAP-UP: While the game looks and sounds nice, it's pretty easy to stop playing because the interest factor slides into the ball pit.

PARENT'S TAKE: The cartoon violence is not even close to those classic Warner Bros. and Hanna Barbera 'toons and is mainly done for comic effect. But younger children will get bored with this game after a few minutes.

FINAL WORD: "Flipper Critters" is a great concept and would have been a nice way to keep the video-pinball game alive, but it runs out of momentum quickly.

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