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Pinobee: Wings of Adventure

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Artoon
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer

Graphics & Sound:

Pinobee sports some of the sharpest real-time graphics that I've seen on the Gameboy Advance. The various character sprites are prerendered, of course, but the world itself simply pops with colour and vibrancy. Each set of levels has its own distinct theme, and each of them looks very, very nice. The scrolling backgrounds are also sharp, although a few of the layers are rather pixellated. The game looks more like a full-fledged SNES platformer, which I suppose is what the developers were aiming for.

Just one question--what the heck is up with Pinobee's 'big head after something happens' animation?

The music is repetitive, but it's not like I was really paying attention to it anyway. There's a main theme that's usually playing, but during boss fights and at certain map locations the music will change to let you know that something different is happening or needs to be done. The sound effects are strictly standard fare, bangs and swooshes and what have you; nothing special in the aureal department.


And while Pinobee is fun, any gamer worth their salt can 'complete' the game in a couple of hours. Of course, they haven't truly finished the game at that point; Pinobee relies on people going back to finish the levels completely. However, when the game is as short as this one, that technique ends up falling flat on its face. Chances are good that you'll feel cheated once you complete Pinobee, and while you may spend the time to completely finish the game, it's still something of a sour taste.

It's a shame, too, because the game is quite a bit of fun. The plot develops as you play the levels, but you won't really see it in the stages themselves; instead, you can read about what really happened in the journal that Pinobee writes after every stage. It turns out that Grandpa has disappeared--your creator--and it's up to you to find and rescue him. As the game goes on, you'll find out more about what happened, and more about your rather unique condition; like Edward Scissorhands, you are incomplete. But instead of lacking hands, you lack a heart.

The game's levels are sprawly platformer fare. They start out simple, but by the end you're going to have to negotiate mazes of passageways and doors that go back and forth to find the exit. You can fight enemies by jumping on their heads; the gold ones require two bops, but you have to kill the gold ones to truly complete any level. Besides being able to jump, Pinobee quickly learns how to dash. This dashing lets you zoom a short distance in any direction, and if you have multiple dashes you hover for a bit between them so you can choose where you want to go. By the end of my first play-through I had seven dashes, which was enough to get across most rooms without actually touching the floor.

And therein lies the core problem with Pinobee. Other than the maze levels, you can basically 'cheat' your way through a level--dash as far as you can, touch a platform, dash as far as you can. Handy arrow signs show you the direction that you need to move in to find the exit, and you can breeze through most levels in a matter of minutes. Only the more mazey ones will require more of your time. Because of this, the game only lasts a couple of hours of playtime.

So the game expects you to go back and completely finish each level. Unfortunately, instead of recording each piece of the level that you complete, you have to finish the whole thing in one sitting. While this isn't bad on the beginning levels, the ones that require you to kill twenty-odd gold enemies and do the usual button-pushing and character-saving will have you grumbling in frustration. It's definitely a challenge to beat the game entirely, but that challenge feels more artificial than real. The same thing goes for collecting the 'items' to gain bonuses. You don't have enough room in your inventory for all of them, so you have to micromanage the items and hope to get enough to actually complete a few lines on the 'Bingo' grid. As you complete them, you gain new abilities, which is very cool, but it still feels a little frustrating.


If you just want to blow through the game, Pinobee is amazingly easy. The only boss that gave me any trouble was the first one, and when I died fighting it the game gave me the hint that explained how to beat it. The levels fly by, other than the more puzzly ones, and you can usually guess which direction you need to go to find the exit. The Dash is an amazingly powerful move, one that you should use constantly; the fact that you have an unlimited number of lives also helps make the game simple. Remember to touch the big crystals in the level to record your progress through the stage.

Game Mechanics:

You use the thumbpad to move Pinobee and the A button to jump and dash and whatever else you may need to do. The controls are dead simple, basically. Pinobee has a few issues with dashing towards corners; he sometimes gets 'stuck', not in the wall but unable to dash in a good direction. Of course, when you have seven of them, it's rather easy to back out and fix the direction you're coming from. The core mechanics of the game were solid enough; there just isn't enough game here to enjoy. I didn't like the item menus at all. They're difficult to navigate, especially the one that you use to look at the bingo cards. I also didn't like the choice of colours for the cards--pink, blue, and orange--as pink and orange are hard to differentiate in lower-light situations.

Pinobee: Wings of Adventure is a fun platformer while it lasts, but it lasts entirely too short of a time. People who aren't completist freaks should stay far, far away from Pinobee, as the game can be beaten in a single sitting with no problems. Those who enjoy digging around to find every single card and enemy and item will find a lot to like in this game, as long as they can deal with the fact that you have to completely redo each level every time you go into it. It's stylish and gorgeous, but Pinobee the game lacks a little heart, just like its protagonist.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

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