As I loaded up Momonga for the first time, it occurred to me that a flying squirrel was a strange choice of animal for a game based on pinball. Surely there were more suitable spherical animals out there, but all I could come up was either a hedgehog or an armadillo, both of which had pinball games based on the creature back in the days of the Mega Drive. Said hedgehog needs no introduction (he’s blue and has a fox follow him EVERYWHERE), but the armadillo was in Psycho Pinball. As a massive fan of both, how did the latest animal-pinball hybrid hold up?
Momo the momonga and his tribe were recently attacked by a group of vicious owls. Momo managed to escape, but was the only one and now needs to get back to his tribe in order to rescue them. After being saved by Panda the panda – not a typo – and trained up in the ways of pinball, Momo sets off to reclaim his tribe’s land from the owls. Upon his journey he meets various different characters and it’s all a very generic story. What separates it from the rest is the amount of heart and charm the game has, even in its very short run time. You can have the story complete within an hour. That is with missing out all the challenges and extra minigames however, so don’t let that put you off.
Upon starting the first level and using the flippers a few times though, I noticed the physics in the game were a bit disappointing compared to more polished pinball games. However, once I realised the levels were designed to combat this by including curved walls and tunnel runs to direct the ball to where it needed to go, this quickly became a non-issue, and as a result the level design should actually be praised. Decent graphics and a colourful palette all add up to make this a visually impressive game.
Throughout playing the game, I can’t help feeling like I had a huge grin on my face. Whether this be from the characters, gameplay elements or even the loading screens, everything about this game won me over. The loading screens in particular are great. They would always contain a bit of info about the development of the game, facts about flying squirrels (did you know there are 43 species of flying squirrels and the momonga weighs only 200 grams?), but my personal favourite has to be the one that simply said: ‘Did you know that you are awesome.’ You, the player, cannot helped but be wrapped up in the charm of this game and this loading screen is the icing on the cake.
Another of the loading screens states that Momonga started out as an infinite runner game before the story and separate levels were added. A quick look on their website will show you that this is Episode 1 of the adventure and with the cliff-hanger that occurs at the end, I for one will be waiting for the sequel with great anticipation.
But all the above is moot if the game does not have the gameplay to back this up. Thankfully, Momonga does in bucket loads. In only 12 short levels, nine story and three minigames, you will be required to navigate various pinball ‘tables’, defeat bosses, rescue friends, complete flying sections and compete in an endless arena mode. One of the biggest surprises came in one of the story levels where you encounter a mole rat named Guaka, who can also roll up into a ball thus giving you a multi-ball level. The game is constantly throwing new ideas at you, but each one fits with the pinball aesthetic and are a genuine surprise to see how they are adopted within the lore of the game.
Another element ‘borrowed’ from pinball games is the competitive element of topping leaderboards, and each level in the game has a specific leaderboard. It can be difficult however to find your score in the list though, as you are unable to scroll through them, and it will only show the scores someway above yours – not necessarily the Top 10, just a random bunch of scores instead. It also appears to be lacking an overall leaderboard where all scores are added up to produce a final score.
Sadly as well, the sound and sound effects were not borrowed from classic pinball. In short, there are only a couple of tunes in the game, one of which is used way too often in all the menus and will start to run its course long before you unlock all the achievements.
For the price of £4.79 there are 10 achievements to earn, none of which are too tricky, only requiring patience and a little bit of skill. The hardest task will be from trying to complete every challenge within the game, but after a couple of tries of each they should be relatively easy to beat. Besides, this repetition will help you to grind out another achievement for playing 500 levels, although this counts a play as starting the level rather the finishing.
Momonga was a true joy to play and a real hidden gem in the [email protected] program. For a game that can be completed within an hour, it has so much variation and puts some 30-hour open world games to shame. Couple this with the cliff-hanger ending and the game will keep you guessing at what’s next. But it has a lot of replayability too, especially for those chasing top scores and achievements. Sure, the game is flawed with bugged leaderboards and average physics, but it’s one of those games where the positives far outweigh the negatives, with the major positive being fun. And this game provides an immense amount of just that.