Vist Genki!

Format: Playstation 2
From: Bandai
Year of Release: 2002
Onscreen Language: English
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Akira Psycho Ball

A Pinball game based on Akira might seem like an usual concept at first but when you consider that companies have been producing licensed pinball tables for decades it doesn't seem so odd. In actual fact Akira Psycho Ball follows the plot of the movie much closer than it's most recent predecessor, the CD32 version.

Having said all that, Psycho Ball isn't your usual pinball simulator. The game is divided into four stages each with their own theme and goals. The first stage is set in Neo Tokyo and is a pinball translation of the battle between Kaneda's motorbike gang and their rivals the Clowns. As Kaneda himself you go head-to-head with Joker, the leader of the clowns, in a game of Pinball Chicken. You play simultaneously with your opponent. Your two tables are joined with the goal being to fire balls across from your side into the opponents gutter. To win you must reach 100 points before your opponent.

Stage two onwards are more traditional Pinball tables but with a twist. Each stage is made up of several sections. You start with a simple goal for instance knocking open three doors to find a key card. Once you have the card you can fire the ball into the exit to leave. Here comes the twist; upon leaving, the bottom half of the pinball table is exchanged for a new section which represents a different area of the stage. Play continues like this until all the sections of the table are cleared.

The game is very well presented and the graphics are impressive. The opening sequence, featuring edited clips of the movie to a new soundtrack, looks great and the animation is of DVD quality. The Pinball tables are bright, colourful and make good use of the scene's themes as well as being littered with movie clips (which sadly you can't skip). The music throughout is in keeping with the game's basis but the new voice samples are a little cheesy. All the standard Pinball features are present including Extra Balls, Kickback, multi-balls and Gutter Freeze.

Unfortunately Akira Psycho Ball suffers from the same flaws as any Pinball sim. You have a very limited control over the ball and it is almost impossible to aim with any sort of accuracy. This means accomplishing a stage's various tasks is far more through luck than skill. The random nature of Pinball also means you can never be sure how long a game will last either. For instance you might clear a whole section on your first ball and then loose your second and third balls straight away. Even the most diehard Pinball fan will find this very frustrating!

Whether or not you'll enjoy Akira Psycho Ball very much comes down to how much you like Pinball but even the biggest fans of the genre will no doubt find themselves frequently annoyed. A good game and a interesting use of the license but sadly let down but it's own inherent limitations.

For one of two players.

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